Larry Hall, former chief of staff at Hardin Memorial Hospital, has filed a complaint in Hardin Circuit Court against Hardin County and Baptist Healthcare Systems in hopes of overturning the sale of Hardin Memorial Health.
Citing state law regarding the operation of county government and procedures for selling property, Hall’s complaint asks the court to set aside Hardin Fiscal Court’s May 22 vote authorizing the sale of HMH.
“The plaintiff demands that the sell of the county property consisting of the assets of Hardin Memorial Hospital to Baptist Healthcare Systems Inc. should be declared void and the sale should be set aside,” the document says.
Hall, who is listed as the sole plantiff, hosted a meeting in May for a group called the Committee to Save Our Hospital to voice concerns and discuss options to stop the pending sale. At the time, he said fiscal court invested two years in reaching its decision but allowed only 20 days for opponents to object.
The document claims the sale “was negotiated in secret and in violation of KRS 67.080 and KRS 67.0802.”
The complaint references a previous case, Southside Real Estate Developers Inc. v. Pike County Fiscal Court, in which it says the Court of Appeals of Kentucky held those statutes “are mandatory and must be followed by a fiscal court in order to dispose of real and personal property belonging to a county.”
The civil suit describes the manner in which Hardin Fiscal Court passed a resolution to sell the HMH assets to Baptist Health as a violation of the statutes and says the sell therefore should be declared void and set aside.
The sale is scheduled to close with transfer finalized by Dec. 1.
The complaint also asks for a permanent injunction requiring fiscal court to comply with state law regarding the sale and disposal of real and personal property belonging to the county.
As with any civil action, the document presents only one side of a dispute. County government and Baptist Healthcare Systems, which are listed as defendants, have 20 working days from the July 2 filing to submit formal responses.
When reached for comment, initial responses were brief.
“Hardin County does not comment on pending litigation,” Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry said. “We are confident that the Hardin Memorial Health sale process was handled appropriately.”
Hardin County Attorney Jenny Oldham said the same.
Baptist Health Public Relations Manager Kit Fullenlove also declined to comment on the pending litigation.
If the decision to sell is set aside by the court, Hall acknowledges fiscal court could repeat the process in a manner outlined by statutes and still agree to sell HMH. In a guest column submitted to the newspaper, he said he hopes a newly configured fiscal court following the November election might be more transparent.
Hall, a retired physician and local businessman, said the primary purpose behind his filing is obtaining better information about reasons motivating the sale and why Baptist was selected.
“We are optimistic the lawsuit will provide some answers to the questions that Hardin County residents have,” Hall wrote. “We are not paying for a lawsuit, but for information to which we are entitled.”
Under terms of the agreement, Baptist Health will acquire all assets of HMH and, in return, will commit $235 million over 10 years to the properties in operating and capital investments.
Specific terms call for Baptist Health to invest a minimum of $150 million in the first five years to build new facilities, recruit more physicians, upgrade HMH’s information technology and equipment, and strengthen HMH’s position and reputation as the preferred regional health care center. After the first five-year period, Baptist Health is to commit an additional $85 million in capital investments to HMH.
At closing, Baptist Health will pay the county $60 million, less the amount used to fully pay for all liabilities associated with HMH’s defined benefit pension plan – estimated at $30 to $35 million – plus another $66.4 million over 25 years. The $66.4 million breaks down to a $50 million payment and $16.4 million in interest.
Under the deal, Baptist Health also will assume HMH’s debt obligations of approximately $37 million and provide up to $150,000 per year for 25 years for health care services historically provided by HMH to inmates of the Hardin County Detention Center.