HMA, Halifax Health woo Bert Fish...again

Health Management Associates and Halifax Health have wooed Bert Fish Medical Center with vastly different propositions, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Halifax Health pushed its similar background. Both it and Bert Fish are publicly-owned healthcare facilities. Halifax also promised to lower the property taxes needed to run the 112-bed hospital based in New Smyrna Beach.

For-profit HMA (NYSE: HMA), which runs 60 hospitals around the country, proposed giving the hospital district $40 million that could be used to pay off existing long-term debt.

HMA made its pitch last Wednesday. Yesterday Halifax Health came a-courting.

Next week, Adventist Health Care will make its pitch.

It's the second time that potential suitors are coming to make a case to merge with Bert Fish, which merged with Adventist in a deal finalized on July 1. After a lawsuit sought to stop the merger--which was based on discussions that were closed to the public, possibly violating the state Sunshine law--Bert Fish's governing board decided to hear offers from all suitors again.

A lawyer hired by the Bert Fish entity to deal with the suit said the HMA proposal might be unconstitutional because it makes a government entity part of a for-profit company. In Halifax Health's pitch yesterday, it promised to commit $5 million more to capital improvements than Adventist, Bert Fish's current partner. The amount was six times more than what it had pledged before.

"The value of Bert Fish has increased overnight," board member Robert Weiss said.

But Bert Fish board members worried that consolidation might affect the quality of patient care. To boot, memories of a failed seven-year partnership between Bert Fish and Halifax that ended in 2004 apparently are still fresh.

"I can tell you that Bert Fish was looked down on as the red-headed stepchild," said RN Linda Vossler, who worked at Bert Fish during its partnership with Halifax.

To learn more:
- read the Daytona News-Journal coverage: article 1 and article 2

Related Article:
Hospital merger scratched due to 'Sunshine' violations