Polk cannot deed land to St. Luke’s hospital

Published 10:48 am Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hospital seeks loan, moves forward with expansion plans
Polk County and St. Luke’s Hospital officials have discovered the county cannot deed the land to the hospital, at least not without complications.

The front of St. Luke’s Hospital as it is today. The new wing is proposed to extend from the left of the front of the hospital. (photo submitted)

The hospital asked the county earlier this year to deed over to St. Luke’s 14.13 acres of county-owned hospital land and the building. The hospital said the transaction was needed to help St. Luke’s secure a loan to construct a $5.6 million expansion.
The county hired attorney John Crill of Parker Poe out of Raleigh, who specializes in hospital financing, to give advice on what options the county has in the request.
Polk commissioners and hospital officials learned that in order to dispose of any county-owned property, the county would have to put the property out to bid for qualified healthcare providers, meaning another hospital could win the bid.
“There’s no interest from anyone to [put the hospital out to bid],” said Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson. “We are very happy with St. Luke’s.”
Instead, the county plans to extend its lease with St. Luke’s to help facilitate the loan.
St. Luke’s CEO Ken Shull said the hospital is very appreciative of Polk County, which has been very cooperative in the process.
Shull said the hospital is now awaiting approval of the certificate of need from the state, which could be approved on Nov. 29. In the meantime, the hospital is working on the design of the expansion with architects Design Strategies out of Greenville and Charlotte. Design Strategies are nationwide healthcare architects.
The hospital is also currently talking with lenders to seek an approximate $3.5 million loan. The total project is estimated at $5.6 million with $2 million planned to come from fundraising, according to Shull. The hospital foundation has already raised $1 million.
The project will include a 15,000-square-foot addition with six patient rooms and combining the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient services. (See page 4 for an article about the expansion.)
Shull said the schedule for the expansion is currently on track, with the project going out for bid in either December 2011 or January 2012.
“We hope to have a groundbreaking in February or March of next year,” Shull said.
The construction is expected to take less than a year, with plans to occupy the new facility in the December 2012/January 2013 timeframe, according to Shull.
St. Luke’s Hospital began in 1928 when the nonprofit corporation was formed. In 1929, a 25-bed hospital opened on Carolina Drive in Tryon, with 230 patients being treated in the first year. The Carolina Drive hospital, now known as the Jervey-Palmer building, was expanded in the 1950s-1960s. The hospital was declared unsafe for any more additions in 1966. In 1968, a bond was approved by Polk residents to raise $1.5 million for a new hospital.
In 1969, with $20,000, the St. Luke’s Auxiliary purchased 40 acres of land off Hwy. 108 in Columbus and donated 14.13 acres to Polk County for the construction of a new hospital. The hospital donated the old hospital land and building to the county, which used it to house county offices for approximately 40 years. The county plans to completely vacate the now aged Jervey-Palmer building this year.
The new 75-bed hospital, which cost $3.1 million, opened in 1972.
Other phases of expansions are planned for the hospital, including a second story for the orthopedic addition.

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