Panama City - The lease negotiations for Bay Medical Center are moving faster than most people realize. The hospital's board of trustee's met with county commissioner Guy Tunnell and representatives from Sacred Heart and the LHP Group Tuesday morning to further discuss the 40 year lease agreement.
These negotiations started in September, when Bay Medicals board signed a non-binding letter of intent from Sacred Heart group to lease the hospital. Now it looks like the two sides could sign a contract as early as next week.
When the county opened the hospital more than 60 years ago, it was named Bay Memorial Hospital. In the 1980's the name changed to Bay Medical Center. If the hospital's board of trustees agrees to a lease with the Sacred Heart Group, the name will most likely change again.
"We recognize that people of this community have invested in this hospital both financially as well as emotionally and we want to honor them and respect them and there wishes and we are very open to the conversation about naming and how this hospital is represented in the future," said Henry Stovall, Sacred Heart Vice President.
Bay medicals current CEO stressed that, although the name might change, patients will continue to receive the same, if not better, healthcare.
"This relationship with LHP represents an opportunity for us to have the best of both world. A trusted capital partner and its the chance to do what we believe is best for Bay Medical Center which strengthens the excellent clinical work and care that already exists here," said Stovall.
Bay County Commissioner's have to approve any leases agreement for the hospital. Tuesday’s meeting was the first for Commissioner Guy Tunnell.
"While we understand the business side of it there, is a human side of it, that 'trust me' side of it, that we need to be more comfortable with," said Tunnell.
"It's a complex transaction and some of it is not intuitive. You kind of have to understand the context. So we will absolutely work with the county commission to ensure that they get adequate time to do what they need to do to get comfortable," said Jim Sharron, LHP Group.
After the board signs the lease contract, which again could be as early as next week, it will then go to county commissioners. They say they'll take as much time as they need before voting on the deal.