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Forums to address hospital deal

The meetings will help voters decide whether University Community Hospital should control Helen Ellis.

By RICHARD DANIELSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 17, 2000


TARPON SPRINGS -- Three public forums have been scheduled so city voters can learn about the July 11 referendum on whether to transfer control of Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital to University Community Hospital of Tampa.

The forums are:

7 p.m. Thursday in the performing arts auditorium at Tarpon Springs City Hall, 324 E Pine St.

7 p.m. June 28 in the conference room at Helen Ellis hospital, 1395 S Pinellas Ave.

7 p.m. July 5 at the Tarpon Springs Community Center, 400 N Walton Ave.

Administrators from Helen Ellis hospital and UCH will be at each forum to answer questions about the hospital-related referendum questions and provide information about the affiliation between the hospitals. Elected city officials also have been invited to participate in the forums.

Earlier this week, city officials and UCH representatives reached a deal on the terms of a 40-year lease that would allow UCH to take over Helen Ellis Hospital and stabilize the hospital's finances. The terms of the proposed lease were reached after lengthy negotiations.

As proposed, UCH would lease the 168-bed hospital from the city and pay $250,000 annual rent. That rent would increase 10 percent after the first five years and will rise 2 percent each year after that.

UCH also has agreed to pay $20-million upfront and to lend an additional $4-million toward retiring the hospital's bonds.

If the transfer is approved, UCH has promised that Helen Ellis Hospital would remain a secular institution, would continue offering charity care, would operate an emergency room open all the time and would continue to offer key services, including cardiac, obstetrics, vascular and other services.

City officials and UCH administrators have also agreed to include language in their agreement, stating that nothing, including a change in the control of the hospital, would violate the city charter.

Voters will be asked to decide the fate of the deal on July 11. If they approve it, a closing date is set for Sept. 1.

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