Heritage Place asking price could go lower

Posted: Monday, August 29, 2005

Banner Health Systems hopes to have a resolution by year end regarding the proposed sale of Heritage Place nursing facility in Soldotna.

That's what members of the Central Peninsula General Hospital Inc. Board of Directors were told Thursday. The board has been looking into the purchase of the 60-bed nursing facility, which would be administered through the hospital if purchased by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Originally Banner Health Systems set the asking price for the nursing facility at $3.2 million, but Mike Powers, a Banner Health administrator from Fairbanks said Thursday that Banner is willing to drop the rate.

Elsewhere in the United States, where Banner is divesting itself of standalone nursing facilities in rural markets, some states' attorneys general have questioned whether Banner could profit from such sales after operating the nursing homes as not-for-profit facilities for years.

Banner also owns and operates hospitals, many of which are co-located with nursing homes.

States have asked that Banner pay back property, business and sales taxes if it is to profit from the sale of the nursing facilities.

In Alaska, if the price of Heritage Place is dropped to a point at which Banner does not show a profit from the sale, the tax issue becomes a moot point, according to CPGH Chief Executive Officer Dave Gilbreath.

Powers told the hospital board Banner has entered into conversations about Heritage Place with Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Joel Gilbertson and Deputy Commissioner Karleen Jackson.

"We hope to have more information in the next two weeks," Powers said.

"Banner will not leave the community overnight and leave patients without long-term care," he said.

Hospital board Vice President Richard Ross asked whether Banner has looked into buying the hospital rather than spinning off the nursing facility.

Powers said the company's emphasis is more toward moving away from Alaska, other than its hospital and nursing home complex in Fairbanks.

In other business, Chief Nursing Officer Lee Jackson told the board of a recent survey of people in the central peninsula area that said "more than 50 percent used some form of complimentary or alternative medicine."

The alternatives to medical care include homeopathic therapies, music and art therapy, diets and herbal remedies, massage and energy therapies, such as therapeutic touch, bioelectromagnetic therapies and Reike.

A health-care strategies consultant is working with CPGH to assess the needs on the peninsula to determine which, if any, alternative therapy services should be offered at the hospital.

"We want to capture part of the market," Jackson said.

"We know people are using alternative therapies," he said.

Gilbreath said the consultant, Nancy Schulman, president of IH Solutions, would be meeting one-on-one with physicians as part of her assessment.

Gilbreath also told the CPGH Inc. board of projected professional needs of the peninsula medical community.

Due to current need and anticipated retirements, the service area will need an additional internal medicine specialist, an ophthalmologist, a urologist, a psychiatrist and a radiologist by 2007, he said.

Gilbreath said the projected needs have been shared with the hospital's medical staff, and board member Russell Peterson suggested the Medical Staff Development Committee review the report and establish priorities for recruiting to fill the needs.

The recruitment needs projected to 2010 call for one or two more family practice doctors, two internists, one or two pediatricians, a dermatologist, a neurologist, one additional general surgeon and one otolaryngologist.

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