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Strong support for landmark agreement

Posted on 09/23/2019
Strong support for landmark agreement

Banner Health, NCMC Inc. and the Weld County Board of Commissioners announced today a growing list of county residents and organizations supporting the sale of the hospital and related assets by the county to Banner Health.

Backers include the mayor of Greeley, the chairman of a program that helps Weld County students pay for college or vo-tech training, and the CEO of a community health-center system.

“Support for this landmark sale and the dedication of proceeds toward health care, education and workforce development continues to grow across the county. We couldn’t be more pleased with the community response,” Commission Chairwoman Barbara Kirkmeyer said.

Weld County has been involved in or owned hospital operations since 1904, but that will change under a deal intended to provide new ways to support health care and education for residents. The Weld County board plans to officially divest itself of the land and assets associated with North Colorado Medical Center to Banner Health, which has operated the hospital since 1995.

The Colorado attorney general must sign off, but Weld County and hospital officials are optimistic about receiving approval because the transaction provides new avenues for charitable support countywide. Attorney General Phil Weiser is hosting a public comment meeting about the proposed venture from 2 to 3 p.m. Friday in the Cornerstone Building at Aims Community College, 5401 20th St. Road.

Greeley Mayor John Gates plans to speak at the meeting.

“I have no concerns, only excitement, excitement about what this transaction means for the people who live here,” Gates said. “The opportunities that will be afforded to residents due to this transaction will make substantial positive change in the lives of so many.”

Mitzi M. Moran, the chief executive officer of Sunrise Community Health, which charges patients based on their ability to pay, said Banner Health recognizes the impact affordable access to quality health care has on individuals and the community.

“Healthy kids perform better in school, healthy adults can work. Thriving schools and a thriving workforce are the engines that drive communities,” she said.

“Banner has invested millions into Sunrise -- we wouldn’t be one of the lowest-cost community health centers in Colorado with some of the highest-quality scores serving over 41,000 people in need each year if not for our relationship with Banner,” Moran said. “We are proud to partner with a forward thinking, collaborative healthcare system like Banner and look forward to working with them under the new structure created with this proposal.”

Others who tout the transfer include:

Dr. Mark Wallace, director of the Weld County Department of Health and Environment: Weld residents are fortunate to have excellent health care available through the hospitals and clinics in the county. The sale of Weld County’s interest in NCMC creates an opportunity to invest more money back into local health, education, and health care programs far into the future that will help our families and communities thrive.

Greeley City Councilman Dale Hall, chairman of the Bright Futures program that helps county residents with higher ed or vo-tech costs: As a former Weld County commissioner, I believe it is important for government to know when to step out of the way for the benefit of residents and businesses. This transaction will allow county government to fully step out of the hospital-based health care realm, regardless of how minimal the county involvement is at this point, and let those who know health care practice health care unhindered.

Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno: We would not have entered into this transaction if we had any concern that the access to or the level of health care for county residents would be put in jeopardy in any way. For more than two decades, Banner Health has committed fully to Weld County residents through their care services and through their investments. Because we are sure of Banner’s commitment to our residents, we know this transaction is right, the time is right, and the benefits to the community are right.

As previously announced by the parties involved, the sale of the hospital and related assets by the county to Banner Health will allow the parties to retire existing real estate leases and NCMC Inc. to fully retire the outstanding bank and bond debt against the assets. Net proceeds from the transaction will fund an endowment for ongoing support of both health and education in Weld County.

NCMC Inc. will receive a portion of the sale proceeds, because it owns outright some of the land and assets Banner is buying. Those proceeds will expand funds available to NCMC Inc. to bolster its philanthropic efforts to benefit Weld County’s most vulnerable.

“We are very encouraged with the support we are seeing from the Weld County community for our vision for NCMC Inc. and long-term philanthropic support will be able to provide to our health care providers and young people pursuing higher education,” said Tom Grant, chairman of the board and president of NCMC Inc.

Weld County government will also receive a portion of the sale proceeds. The commissioners will use the proceeds to invest in the Bright Futures program to help Weld County students attend college or take vocational training to ensure a workforce for the county.

After the sale, Banner will continue its commitment to support those who are uninsured or underinsured. In 2018, Banner provided $34.3 million in uncompensated care to people who were unable to pay. NCMC Inc. will also continue to provide support for Banner’s charity care endeavors.

At NCMC, Banner has created a nationally-recognized heart program, a regional burn center, an advanced neonatal intensive care unit, the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center and an innovative local health care network.

Banner Health will pay $328.4 million for land, assets and equipment, a large portion of which will be used to pay off $209.5 million in existing hospital debt. The purchase includes not only North Colorado Medical Center land and buildings but also urgent care, emergency room and clinic buildings throughout Weld County.

The remaining sale proceeds will go to NCMC Inc. and Weld County. NCMC Inc. is expected to receive $59.5 million and when paired with their existing operating cash, NCMC Inc. will have approximately $300 million to form a new philanthropic foundation that will serve residents of Weld County by promoting health and education countywide. This foundation will be the new duty and function of the NCMC Inc. Board.

Finally, an estimated $59.4 million in proceeds will be invested in an endowment in the foundation and earmarked for the Weld County Commissioners to select the program or programs the earnings will be directed to within the county. Initially, the County Commissioners are directing all of the earnings of the $59.4 million endowment to the Bright Futures program, generating approximately $2.5 million a year for Weld County students to pursue continuing education opportunities and ensure a workforce for the county.

For questions, please contact:
• Weld County: Jennifer Finch, jfinch@weldgov.com, 970-400-4232
• Banner Health: Sara Quale, sara.quale@bannerhealth.com, 970-810-6133
• NCMC Inc.: Tom Grant, tgrant@grantandhoffmanlaw.com, 970-356-5666