Wise Regional to assume ownership of hospital on Wednesday

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, March 23, 2013

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One minute after midnight Tuesday night, North Texas Community Hospital will become Wise Regional Health System at Bridgeport.

NTCH CEO Max Ludeke confirmed Friday that he and Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers will meet Monday afternoon in Decatur to put their signatures to the “closing” documents transferring ownership. Various other signatures will be acquired on Tuesday and the transfer will officially occur as Wednesday begins.

By that time, the Bridgeport hospital will be operating basically as an emergency room with the needed support services, as Wise Regional plans to “shrink” services temporarily. Within a few weeks, however, it should be back up and running as a full-service hospital.

“Everything is going smooth,” Ludeke said Friday. “It’s right on track.”

He said Wise Regional will do some maintenance and checkups on various systems including the heating and air conditioning system. Other changes are planned as the facility converts from a stand-alone hospital to a branch of the Wise Regional system.

Some of the work is related to the Medical Office Building which adjoins the hospital but is not part of the purchase.

“It’s my understanding that all the shared services agreements are in place, and everything is set up,” Ludeke said. “It’s not so much that they’re separating things as defining them and getting those agreements in place.”

The MOB currently has seven tenants, including five physicians’ offices and the hospital’s physical therapy department. Cambio Recovery Center has an office on the first floor and a residential substance-abuse treatment facility on the second floor.

Efforts to combine staffs and services have already been under way for several weeks, since the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Fort Worth approved Wise Regional’s bid – the only bid – on Feb. 4.

The Decatur-based health system bid $20 million, $1 million of which was a debtor-in-possession loan. Another $19 million will go to the holders of NTCH’s original $59 million in bonds, while unsecured debtors – including physicians who started the hospital as well as the City of Bridgeport – will simply lose their investment.

The hospital opened in August 2008 and was in default on its construction bonds by the following May. It declared bankruptcy on Nov. 8, 2012.

A last-minute deal to provide enough operating cash for the hospital to make it to closing was approved last week in federal court.

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