Transcript Staff Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With just two days to go before its operating capital was exhausted, the Moore Medical Center was sold Monday for $34,250,000 in cash -- to the Norman Regional Health System.
Originally considered the "second place" bidder for the facility, officials with Norman Regional made a last-minute offer early today which trumped a previous bid of $32 million by Oklahoma City-based Integris Health.
That bid, made by Integris on Feb. 12, has been considered the winning offer for the 45-bed acute-care facility. Several other proposals, including a $55 million bid from Acadiana Healthcare and a $49 million proposal from Moore Medical Holdings LLC-Oklahoma Healthcare LLC, failed.
Monday's action drew praise from Oklahoma City federal bankruptcy judge T.M. Weaver.
"The court is pleased," Weaver told the more than 20 attorneys in attendance. "We're pleased this has ended in a way to allow the hospital to continue to operate."
Weaver then approved the sale, ending a three-month saga to find a buyer for hospital.
With its cash almost gone and more than 350 jobs on the line, the sale keeps Moore's lone acute-care facility open.
"We're excited," said NRH chief David Whitaker following the hearing. "We'll close on Feb. 28."
Whitaker said he and Schuster Group CEO Michael Schuster would meet with hospital employees and volunteers this week. "Mr. Schuster and I have agreed to meet with the staff, doctors and volunteers of the hospital on Tuesday," he added. "I know there will be many questions."
After the sale is completed, Whitaker said the employees of the hospital would become employees of Norman Regional. "Once we close and take possession, those employees will be part of our system."
In addition to his meeting with the staff, Whitaker said Norman Regional is developing a transition team to streamline the change of ownership and will add the Moore hospital to its existing state hospital license to ensure continued operation.
"We will add the 45 beds at Moore to our current license," he said. "That will prevent any problems with the licensing process."
Yet not everyone was pleased by the sale.
Integris CEO Stanley Hupfeld said Integris "was not willing to bid above a threshold" that it considered to be fair market value for the hospital.
"Paying more would not have been in the best interest of our organization and therefore the communities that we serve," Hupfeld said in a message sent to Integris staff.
And while he congratulated Norman Regional officials, Hupfeld also left the door open for future expansion in Moore. Currently, Integris owns about 40 acres of land along Telephone Road.
"We would like to say congratulations to Norman Regional Hospital," he said. "We are hopeful they will serve the citizens of Moore with the kind of care they deserve. We will continue to look for ways Integris can serve that community as well. We are pleased that the community of Moore will continue to have a hospital and we look forward to serving the Moore community through our clinics and hospitals."
But Norman Regional Hospital Authority chairman Chuck Thompson said Whitaker and NRH Chief Financial Officer Melvin Alexander had done intensive work on the valuation of the Moore hospital.
"We knew what that particular hospital would be worth to Norman Regional," Thompson said. "We were able to be the winning bidder at less than what we thought we'd have to pay for it, so we're very pleased in that way."
Thompson said what the Moore facility would be worth to another hospital is different than it would be worth to the Norman Regional Health System in referral business.
"We have the opportunity to provide services in that area, and that has a lot of value especially to Norman Regional," he said.
Thompson said the Moore hospital had too much debt the way it had been structured.
"But it actually was a great facility and it had a lot of business. And Norman Regional will now have the opportunity for those referrals for specialty care, for those procedures to come to Norman, which is a lot closer than some of those other facilities -- especially with our new (northeast Norman) campus," he said.
News of the sale surprised Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis.
"I am surprised," Lewis said Monday. "Up until today, we'd assumed the buyer would be Integris."
But while Lewis said he was caught off guard by the fact Norman Regional had purchased the facility, he added he was "very excited" the hospital would remain open. "I'm just glad that the employees will keep their jobs," he said. "Our goal has been to keep the hospital open. We know the hospital is good. And it's good to have someone with the experience that Norman Regional has to come in and run it."
That experience, he said, will "really benefit" the city of Moore.
"We didn't want to see it close, and the fact that it remains open -- well, we love it."
Built in 2005 and opened later that same year, the Moore Medical Center never generated a profit. Constructed with a multi-million dollar loan underwritten by a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program, the hospital was the crown jewel of The Schuster Group, the Oklahoma City healthcare company that built and managed the facility.
Currently, the hospital owes about $39 million to Capmark Finance, about $4 million to HCI Special Purpose Corp., another $4 to $5 million in unsecured debt and still another $7 million to Hall Financial for a post-bankruptcy line of credit.
The hospital filed for bankruptcy protection Oct. 28, 2006. A short time later, the Schuster Group, itself, sought bankruptcy protection.
Transcript staff writer Carol Cole contributed to this report.
M. Scott Carter 366-3545 email@example.com
Transcript Staff Writer
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