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Mercy Health Partners explore Mercy West sale

Mercy Health Partners announced last week it might sell its Mercy Medical Center West campus.

But according to Jerry Askew, senior VP of external affairs at Mercy, the company’s board of directors simply is trying to “determine the value of all our assets.”

“Our board is taking a forward look … at where healthcare is going to be in 10 years,” he added.

According to Askew, the sale proposal is somewhat due to the recent healthcare reform bill.

“The trend is clearly moving toward outpatient care,” Askew said.

“The healthcare reform bill has made it abundantly clear that reimbursement for inpatient services is going down and reimbursement for outpatient services is going up.

“Long hospital stays are becoming a thing of the past,” he added.

In light of that, Askew said, Mercy’s board of directors is asking itself, “Does it make more sense to invest in outpatient facilities rather than inpatient facilities?”

Mercy Medical Center West is a 101-bed acute care facility located off Parkside Drive.

In recent months, Mercy Health Partners has constructed a new outpatient surgery center and introduced robotic surgery at the campus.

The Mercy West campus is the system’s most financially challenged, Askew said.

“It took a lot of money to build that campus,” he added.

“If we’re going to make that campus successful, we’re going to have to invest a lot more money in it. We’re doing strategic planning for the whole system right now, and the Board has not decided to sell it.

“That one makes the most sense to look at,” Askew said.

He said the announcement about the possible sale came simply from a decision to be open and transparent.

“The decision to sell has not been made. But we decided it was better for our associates, it’s better for our physicians, it’s better for the public not to have any questions about what we’re really doing,” Askew said.

He expects buyer interest in the hospital from other Knoxville-area healthcare systems as well as national systems looking for a foothold in the area.

Askew emphasized any future sale of the property would not eliminate Mercy’s presence in West Knox County.

“We have no intention of not being in the west,” Askew said.

However, that presence could change — largely to being geared toward outpatient procedures, similar to Mercy’s planned facility in South Knoxville.

In the meantime, no services would change at Mercy West.

“Even if the board did decide that it was in the best interest of the ministry to sell West, that doesn’t mean we would not provide services to the western part of the city.

“It just means that we’ll need to identify appropriate ways to provide outpatient services in that part of the city,” he said.

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