The CEO of Starke Hospital says the new owners of the local facility would prefer to construct a new building on the existing site at the intersection of South Heaton Street and Culver Road. The county owns the land and the building, but Tennessee-based Community Health Systems now owns 80-percent of the hospital. IU Health has retained 20-percent ownership, and a subsidy of CHS is running the day-to-day operations. The name change to simply “Starke Hospital” reflects the shift, and a new branding symbol is in the works.
The current lease between the county and hospital owners is up at the end of September. It requires a six-month notice period, which was the end of March. Starke Hospital CEO Craig Felty says they’re “definitely” going to build a new facility and are still negotiating with the county about doing so on the existing site.
“We asked for a 90 day extension of that notice period with the intent hopefully that we can actually come up with a new lease,” Felty said during a Friday program on WKVI. “We’re very optimistic that we’re going to meet and we’re going to get that done before we even have to extend the current lease on the new facility, because we want to build a new facility.”
The Starke County Commissioners agreed to that extension at their March 21st meeting. At the time, county attorney Marty Lucas stressed the negotiations are confidential but assured audience members details of a deal would be made public before a formal vote is taken.
Felty says the existing building is outdated and in need of repairs. He says remodeling it would cost significantly more than new construction and would still not meet the hospital’s needs for efficient delivery of care.
Last year hospital officials hosted two tours of full-size cardboard mock-ups of the proposed design and incorporated recommended changes into the plans. That was before the CHS acquisition. During the tours, officials said plans were to build the new structure on the county-owned land between the existing hospital and doctor’s offices and tear the current building down once construction was completed.