WMC county assets to be sold to Arizona-based Banner Health - Casper, WY Oil City News
Oil City News Logo

WMC county assets to be sold to Arizona-based Banner Health

The Wyoming Medical Center’s east building is seen recently in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – The Wyoming Medical Center announced on Tuesday morning a proposed agreement to join Banner Health.

According to a release, the agreement means that WMC would become “Banner’s flagship Wyoming hospital,” and that Banner would invest $100 million in WMC over the next ten years.

The agreement would also result in a philanthropic foundation with more than $220 million focused on healthcare in Natrona County, said the release.

Article continues below...

For the proposed joining of WMC and Banner, the Board of Natrona County Commissioners will consider selling land, buildings and equipment to Banner that is currently leased by WMC.

In the agreement, Banner would purchase the assets for $157 million, and eliminate around $50 million in debt from bonds the County holds. Proceeds would go to the foundation, said the release.

The release says WMC will keep its name and will co-brand with Banner “at some point in the future.”

“Patients will continue to be able to receive care from the same physicians they do today,” said the release.

“We’re excited to share the proposed details of how we can bring together two market-leading and highly-respected healthcare organizations to provide even stronger regional, high-quality healthcare to our patients and the people of Wyoming,” said Michele Chulick, President and CEO of Wyoming Medical Center in the release.

The Board of County Commissioners will host two community forums on the topic at 5:30 p.m. on July 22 and July 28 at the Natrona County Courthouse, 200 North Center St., said the release.

Representatives from WMC and Banner will attend and discuss the proposed joint venture. The public is welcome to attend, and proper social distancing and masking protocols will be enforced. Masks will be made available, said the release.

In a separate statement from the Board of County Commissioners issued on Tuesday morning, the board expressed its support for the proposal as a way to “ultimately make local healthcare even better for those we serve today and for generations that follow.”

“We believe Banner is the right partner for WMC and for Natrona County,” they said.

In January, WMC announced a non-binding letter of intent to “explore” an affiliation with Banner Health.

Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Banner Health is one of the largest nonprofit heath care organizations in the country, according to its website, operating around 28 hospitals and several specialized facilities across six states. In Wyoming they operate hospitals in Wheatland, Torrington and Worland.

According to the WMC’s website, Wyoming’s largest hospital traces its roots to 1911, when it opened as Wyoming General Hospital. It eventually was renamed Memorial Hospital of Natrona County. In 1986, the hospital was renamed the Wyoming Medical Center after a corporate restructuring made it a not-for-profit charitable organization that leases its facilities from the county.

The Wyoming Medical Center employs roughly 1,300 people, making them the second largest employer behind the Natrona County School District.

The full release follows:

Casper, Wyo. – Officials from Wyoming Medical Center (WMC) and Banner Health today announced the details of a proposed agreement that would result in WMC becoming part of Banner Health – one of the largest multi-state nonprofit health systems in the country.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Banner would invest a minimum of $100 million in WMC over the next 10 years. In addition, the separate nonprofit WMC foundation will have an initial projected commitment of more than $220 million to focus on healthcare in the County.

In early 2020, the WMC Board of Directors announced the signing of a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) with Banner. For the past several months, the organizations have been conducting mutual due diligence to fully determine the specifics of a potential agreement.

“We’re excited to share the proposed details of how we can bring together two market-leading and highly-respected healthcare organizations to provide even stronger regional, high-quality healthcare to our patients and the people of Wyoming,” said Michele Chulick, President and CEO of Wyoming Medical Center.

To facilitate WMC and Banner coming together, the Board of Natrona County Commissioners will consider a purchase by Banner of the land, buildings and equipment associated with WMC. The County provides no funding to WMC but does own the land, buildings and equipment and leases them to WMC. A separate agreement with the County will allow the County to provide one-time funding support to the WMC foundation, secure more than $120 million that can be invested for the County’s future and eliminate approximately $50 million in County debt.

The WMC Board of Directors and the Board of Natrona County Commissioners will each need to approve agreements with Banner for WMC to join Banner’s nationally recognized health system.

“The WMC Board of Directors has been clear from the beginning of this process that we would only move forward in joining with another health system if we could find the right organization – one that respects our history and values, understands the importance of local healthcare and local input and is committed to ensuring WMC’s success,” said Jessica Oden, Chair of the WMC Board of Directors.

“We’ve gotten to know Banner through an extensive process and have determined they’re the right partner for WMC and for Natrona County.”

BENEFITS OF WMC BECOMING PART OF BANNER HEALTH

WMC will join Banner Health through a structure called a membership substitution and become the health system’s Wyoming flagship hospital and regional referral center, building on the longstanding roots that Banner has in the state with three additional rural hospitals – Platte County Memorial

Hospital in Wheatland, Community Hospital in Torrington and Washakie Medical Center in Worland.

Key elements of the proposal for WMC to join Banner include:

• A commitment from Banner to invest a total of $100 million over the next 10 years in WMC and its facilities, technology, programs, people and operations to protect and expand access to high-quality local care.

• One of the largest independent, nonprofit foundations in Wyoming, receiving more than $220 million in projected initial funding to focus on healthcare in Natrona County, and providing significant support specifically to WMC on an annual basis to support facilities and technology, as well as other philanthropic efforts.

• Banner’s purchase of the land, buildings and equipment associated with WMC from Natrona County for $157 million and the elimination of approximately $50 million in debt the County has today from the bonds associated with WMC’s land, buildings and equipment. Proceeds will be used for future investment in the County and substantial one-time funding to the WMC foundation. The County will preserve the ability to legally enforce Banner’s commitments to maintain an acute care hospital satisfying certain basic hospital criteria and to continue to provide care for prisoners and individuals subject to involuntary hospitalization in the proposed post-closing agreement between Banner and the County. This gives the County the important ability to ensure these commitments are met in full.

• The formation of a new Wyoming Advisory Board at WMC that would include local community leaders and physicians nominated by WMC. The Advisory Board will have the responsibility to focus on the strategic future of healthcare in Wyoming.

• WMC will keep its name, and co-brand with Banner at some point in the future.

• Patients will continue to be able to receive care from the same physicians they do today.

While Banner will be making a significant financial investment in Natrona County to bring WMC into the larger health system, Banner will also positively impact the region’s healthcare future for this generation and generations to come. Importantly, Banner intends to:

• Preserve and further WMC’s nonprofit mission, allowing the hospital to continue its calling to care for all patients, regardless of ability to pay. WMC will continue to provide involuntary care, prisoner care and serve the most vulnerable members of the community in accordance with Banner’s financial assistance policies.

• Expand and grow healthcare access and advance medical care in the community, region and state. Banner’s strong clinical capabilities will enhance the services WMC provides today including 24/7 emergency care, Level II trauma services, women’s care and labor and delivery services, cardiology, primary care, neurology, orthopedics, cancer care and more.

• Keep and expand the delivery of medical services in rural areas here in Wyoming. Together, the combined organization will advance the delivery of healthcare services in rural areas, including an investment in the development and growth of telehealth services. Banner will also develop an integrated network of care with its three additional Wyoming hospitals.

• Bring together the best services and practices of both organizations through collaboration, shared tools and leveraging Banner’s other facilities in Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, California and Nebraska to develop and share proven approaches to telehealth, transport services, physician recruitment, clinical protocols and other services to enhance the quality of clinical care in the region. WMC will also have the ability to access Banner’s supply chain and equipment purchasing network.

• Sustain the hospital’s financial and operational strength and create cost-saving opportunities that enable the hospital to further its nonprofit mission.

“Banner Health has a long history of serving the residents of Wyoming, and we’re excited about what this will mean for the quality of healthcare and life in the state,” said Peter S. Fine, President and CEO of Banner Health. “Together, we’ll drive healthcare forward to make important advancements that will strengthen local healthcare.”

The Board of County Commissioners will host two community forums on the topic at 5:30 p.m. on July 22 and July 28 at the Natrona County Courthouse, 200 North Center St., Casper, WY, where representatives from WMC and Banner will share more about what WMC joining Banner would mean for Natrona County, the region and the state of Wyoming.

Residents will also have the opportunity to share their input during the forums. Attendees are asked to adhere to WMC guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meeting attendees will be required to wear a mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines. A mask will be provided if needed.

“Our vision is to keep and grow access to exceptional care close to home right here in Wyoming, and in doing so improve the overall health of the communities we serve,” Chulick said. “Our goal is to reinforce and advance WMC as a provider of quality healthcare and a sustained economic engine for our community.”

To learn more about Wyoming’s healthcare future, please visit www.WMCforward.org.

About Wyoming Medical Center

Wyoming Medical Center is the state’s largest hospital with 249 beds, more than 45 medical specialties and 13 primary, specialty and immediate care clinics. As a regional trauma and referral center, we serve 11 Wyoming counties with more than 250,000 people. We are Casper’s only fullservice, non-profit hospitals with comprehensive heart, stroke and trauma care. For more information, visit wyomingmedicalcenter.org. In connection with the proposed agreements with Banner Health and Natrona County, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP is serving as the exclusive strategic advisor and legal counsel to WMC and J.P. Morgan is serving as exclusive financial advisor to WMC.

About Banner Health

Headquarters in Arizona, Banner Health is one of the largest non-profit healthcare systems in the country. The system owns and operates 28 acute-care hospitals, Banner Health Network, Banner – University Medicine, academic and employed physician groups, long-term care centers, outpatient surgery centers and an array of other services; including Banner Urgent Care, family clinics, home care and hospice services, pharmacies and a nursing registry. Banner Health is in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming. For more information, visit BannerHealth.com.

In connection with the proposed agreements with Wyoming Medical Center and Natrona County, Citi is serving as exclusive financial advisor to Banner Health. In connection with the proposed agreements with WMC and Natrona County, Citi is serving as the exclusive financial advisor