Late last week, the News-Sentinel published an article by editor Kevin Leininger that linked the Fort Wayne City Council’s controversial land purchase of the vacated Omnisource scrapyard with IU Health’s announced expanded presence in the market (http://www.news-sentinel.com/news/local-news/).
Rumors both of the purchase and of interest by both IU Health and Lutheran Health Network (LHN) had been circulating for months. Both health systems have reasons not to build a hospital immediately: IU Health has two under construction–one in Bloomington and another on the academic campus in Indianapolis–but it may make sense to consider construction in Fort Wayne while interest rates remain low. IU’s medical school in Fort Wayne enrolls 84 medical students, its nursing school will have over 700 students and postgraduate residency programs are planned. LHN has had conversations with Mayor Henry and previously was interested in the North River property until recently withdrawing its bid. NICHE has no doubt that LHN can build a replacement hospital for St. Joseph’s, but its parent, Community Health Services (CHS), will first have to untangle difficult debt problems. CHS’s recently reported attempts to reschedule debt may result in more flexibility for investment. Either health system may make an announcement, but it seems unlikely that construction could begin within six months. Any property available will require zoning, inspection, remediation, clearing, and approval of building architecture. But other uses remain possible and critical discussion regarding the purchase and use will continue.