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Southwestern ownership wants Memorial, too

LAWTON_Capella Healthcare, which owns Southwestern Medical Center in Lawton, wants to take control of Comanche County Memorial Hospital.

The Tennessee-based company sent a letter to county commissioners Thursday, offering the county between $170 and $180 million to lease Memorial Hospital for 40 years.

The proposal may sound familiar--back in February 2006, Capella tried to do the same thing, but commissioners rejected the idea.  They said they were following public sentiment.Memorial Hospital's CEO Randy Segler said accepting the proposal would be a bad idea.Segler wants to keep Memorial as a locally-run, non-profit hospital.  Capella is a for-profit healthcare corporation, which Segler said goes against Memorial's philosophy."Everything that we do comes back into this organization," said Segler.  "A new technology, new services, new employees, new benefits--those types of things."Segler says all the money the hospital makes gets invested back into the community.

Commissioner Ron Kirby said he hasn't made a decision yet.  However, he said Capella's offer is so large the commissioners should at least listen to their proposal."Anytime anybody offers you $180 million cash, I think it is your obligation to give them your full attention," Kirby said.  "And after all, they are a good corporate member of the Lawton-Fort Sill community, and a good healthcare provider."

Kirby says money made by leasing could also be good for the area.One of the big issues in the earlier bid for Memorial was how the hospital would deal with people who couldn't afford healthcare.  Kirby says it appears Capella's new proposal addresses the care they would provide in those cases, as well as for medicare recipients."They went to great lengths to spell out the actual proposed contract," he said.But Segler and Memorial's Board of Directors disagree.

"I do not think anything's different at all this time," Segler said.Segler also says the county already has a lease on the hospital for nearly 30 more years, and staying local is good for Lawton."Healthcare is a very local issue and this community hospital has served the community well for over fifty years," he said.  "I think it is very important that that continue."Segler said he understands why Capella is interested in acquiring Memorial, but that the hospital's Board of Directors has no interest in leasing or selling the hospital to another entity.  They plan to continue their current operations.

Capella was unavailable for comment Thursday, but 7-News did get a copy of their proposal letter.

In it, they noted a similar proposal for a 40-year-lease that was accepted by the City of Muskogee in April of 2007.  Capella says that resulted in approximately $100-million for that city.

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