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Earlier this week, News Channel 15 reported on Lutheran Health Network’s decision to cut the North River property from the list of potential sites for a St. Joseph’s Hospital replacement (http://wane.com/…/lutheran-health-network-rules-out-north-…/). “We are focused on alternative sites that are more suitable for our needs and desired timeline,” LHN said in a statement. “We will share additional information as our evaluation process concludes and a decision is made about a location.”

What this means:
– Until the City Council resolves the environmental issues and costs of remediation, the North River property is difficult for a buyer from a site preparation standpoint. It would seem prudent for the St. Joseph’s Board of Directors, working with LHN owner Community Health Systems (CHS), to stand aside.
– LHN’s statement provides little other information regarding either a timeline or alternate sites.
– The closing of Aunt Millie’s on Pearl Street downtown may mean the site will become available for sale, and it has in fact been discussed as a possibility for the new St. Joe.
CHS and LHN have not changed a stated desire to build a new hospital, but recent reports that CHS is rescheduling debt create concerns if new debt is required for construction. Cash flows from LHN should be adequate if those monies have not been previously dedicated.
– Among several possibilities, It may be possible that a turnkey hospital contractor will build and lease a hospital. If so, NICHE hopes LHN’s plans for the hospital project will become clearer by virtue of the abandonment of the North River property.