The public hearing regarding the possibility of selling IU Health Starke Hospital to IU Health La Porte was held yesterday evening, and a number of questions were answered regarding the sale. Several concerned citizens, including some hospital board members, were present at the meeting with questions.
The county officials discussed a possible amendment of the county ordinance restricting the use of the proceeds from the lease of Starke Memorial Hospital dated October 1, 1996. The amendment would authorize the use of up to $50,000 in Save the Hospital Funds to be used to hire a consultant to evaluate the hospital’s real and personal property.
One point that Starke County Council President Dave Pearman emphasized was that the Hospital Board was created to be a liaison between the county commissioners and the hospital, but many people feel that the two boards have not been very communicative. He hopes this will change.
Councilman Marvin McLaughlin recommended that the sale consist of the building and equipment within, but not the actual real estate. He says that this would benefit the hospital because they would not have to pay rent, but the county would own the land. He also recommended that the final agreement include a requirement that IU Health maintain a hospital in Starke County to prevent any risk of them discontinuing services IU Health Starke Hospital and requiring patients to travel to La Porte.
A motion was made to allow up to $50,000 to be spent on a consultant to evaluate the property, building, and equipment, as well as offer various options for the sale. The motion failed, as McLaughlin, who had made the original motion at the previous meeting, voted nay. Pearman says the vote will be made once again at the next meeting on Monday.
“What happened is we had the motion tonight to move forward with changing the ordinance to allow for the expenditure of up to $50,000, and then the committee could possibly seek for additional funds if necessary. Unfortunately, at this point we had have to five members voting in this case. We had one member that decided to vote against, so at this point, though, we do intend to carry this forward and we will revisit this on Monday night’s meeting and we’d certainly like to see anybody come out if they have any additional questions,” said Pearman.
Another issue brought up at the meeting was that IU Health is looking into the process of becoming a not-for-profit organization, which would drastically cut down on the amount of taxes the hospital brings to the county. Employee income would still be taxable, however, but there has been no official word on when that can be expected.