CASPER, Wyo. — The sale of the hospital assets operated by the Wyoming Medical Center to Banner Health has been approved by the Natrona County Commissioners.
The commissioners passed a resolution during a special meeting on Thursday, Aug. 13 that will allow the sale of the hospital assets to move forward.
County Attorney Eric Nelson explained during the meeting that the WMC’s relationship with the county began in 1986. The WMC as a nonprofit entity began to operate the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County under an operating lease agreement.
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Under that agreement, the WMC handles all day to day operations and provide involuntary commitment care, indigent care and prisoner care, Nelson explained. He said the county became aware that the WMC was seeking a new “strategic affiliation” over a year ago.
Nelson added that the WMC and Banner declared a nonbinding letter of intent to form an affiliation in January. He said that those involved in the deal have considered it carefully.
“I believe we have looked at this transaction from every possible angle,” he said.
Nelson said that goals of the deal included ensuring that Natrona citizens would benefit and that Banner was the right fit for the community.
NC Commission Chair Rob Hendry said after the commissioners’ vote that “it is a done deal.”
Attorney Jerry Bell said that the total purchase price is about $200 million and that the transaction is set to close Oct. 1 following the commissioners’ approval.
He said that the county would receive $157 million from Banner and would transfer $40 million of that total to the WMC Foundation. Banner would also convey about $41 million to the WMC Foundation.
“Banner becomes the corporate member of Wyoming Medical Center,” Bell explained.
The $40 million to be provided by the county can only be used by the WMC Foundation to “support health care services in Natrona County,” Bell said. If the WMC Foundation look to spend that money, they will have to get consent from the county to do so.
The WMC Foundation will have a nine person board and will include two county appointees.
Bell added that the county’s debt would also be absorbed in the deal once it is finalized. Nelson said the county’s debt amounted to about $50 million.
Bell said that the $157 million that will be paid to the county was based upon fair market valuation of the hospital assets. He added that Banner has committed to preserving a “viable acute care hospital in Casper.”
He said they will make a permanent commitment to provide:
- 24/7 emergency room
- Medicare/Medicaid eligibility
- Level 2 trauma care
- Maternal care/obstetrics
- prisoner care, indigent care and involuntary commitment care
Hendry said before the vote that some people thought it would be a mistake to sell the hospital assets, but he noted that some of the hospital buildings are aging. If down the line a new hospital were to be built on the east side of Casper, the county could be left in a situation where they would have to figure out what to do with the buildings, Hendry argued.
“I have no problem with us selling that hospital to them,” Hendry said.
Commissioner Paul Bertoglio said this decision was among the more important decisions he has been involved in.
“I feel very strongly that it is the right decision to make,” he said. “I see Banner stepping in as a win-win for the citizens.”
“They are here to serve, they want to be part of our community.”
Commissioner Jim Milne said that he has communicated with people at the Community Hospital in Torrington, which is also operated by Banner, and he said that “they think it would be a good deal for this community.”
Commissioner Forrest Chadwick also expressed support: “If I didn’t believe that this action would enhance healthcare in Natrona County and Wyoming, I wouldn’t be able to support it and I’m absolutely going to support this motion.”
Commissioner Brook Kaufman noted the importance of the decision.
“This decision feels more grave than who you will marry in your life because this feels like it impacts everyone that lives in the community that I adore and I support and it is a long term decision,” she said. “There’s no divorce here, we’re moving forward.”
The Natrona County Commissioners held their meeting at the NC Courthouse. The Natrona Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees simultaneously held a meeting in the same room and also voted to approve the sale.
Thursday’s discussion can be reviewed on the Natrona County Youtube Channel: