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Adviser tweaks hospital proposal

A consultant recommends University Community Hospital increase its annual rent from $250,000 to $275,000.

By KATHERINE GAZELLA

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000


TARPON SPRINGS -- The city's health care consultant is recommending that the City Commission approve University Community Hospital's proposed lease of Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital, but only if UCH agrees to changes in the agreement.

The City Commission will hold a workshop on the issue at 6:30 tonight to discuss and vote on the proposal. The meeting will be held in the auditorium at City Hall, 324 E Pine St. in Tarpon Springs. A citywide referendum on the future of the hospital is scheduled for July 11.

City consultant Gerry Busch wrote in a letter last week to the mayor and commissioners the lease should include changes to the annual rent, a detailed description of all property and assets owned by Helen Ellis and other details.

The annual rent paid by UCH to the city should be increased from $250,000 to $275,000, Busch said. He suggested that the city request the additional money to offset services that UCH agreed to provide free of charge in an earlier draft, including physicals for city employees.

Busch also suggested that the annual rent be increased by 6 percent after three years. After that, he said, rent should be increased by the amount of the cost of living increase in the Consumer Price Index.

In UCH's most recent lease proposal, the annual rent of $250,000 would increase by 10 percent every five years.

City Attorney John Hubbard said he thinks all the issues raised by Busch can be resolved. Calvin Glidewell, vice president of development for UCH, a Tampa-based hospital group, said he was hopeful that the remaining issues could be worked out.

"I think there are some things in (Busch's letter) that we would agree to," Glidewell said. "I think everybody's interested in making this happen."

If the lease is approved, a closing date for the transfer of the hospital is scheduled for Sept. 1.

UCH's proposed takeover of Helen Ellis is designed to rescue the financially troubled hospital. Helen Ellis is mired in debt, has laid off workers and has faced the prospect of defaulting on its bonds.

The hospital recently reported that, as of the end of April, it had lost about $1.4-million during the current fiscal year. Administrators originally expected to lose $1.2-million for the entire fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

If the takeover is approved, UCH would pay more than $20-million up front toward retiring Helen Ellis' bonds. UCH officials predict the hospital will post profits shortly after the takeover.

- Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or at gazella@sptimes.com.

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