St. Luke’s Hospital exploring new partnership with AdventHealth

Published 11:39 am Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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County commissioners hear information about proposed agreement at Monday’s meeting


COLUMBUS—At Monday’s regularly scheduled Polk County Board of Commissioners meeting, the Board heard from St. Luke’s Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Miller about a proposed partnership between St. Luke’s Hospital and AdventHealth, a non-profit healthcare system headquartered in Florida. 

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Several members of St. Luke’s Board of Trustees, including Commissioner Paul Beiler and County Manager Marche Pittman, were in attendance. Miller spoke about the hospital’s history and future to provide context for the partnership, pointing out that for many years, St. Luke’s Hospital existed as a standalone operation.

 “There were tremendous changes in the hospital environment around us, and it became more and more difficult to just be a stand-alone operation here in a small community like this,” Miller told commissioners. 

This resulted in a partnership between the hospital and Atrium Health in 2008, though Atrium didn’t have any financial responsibility over the hospital. St. Luke’s continued to thrive and expand. Four years ago, Atrium removed itself from the business of partnering with hospitals and explained that it would not be renewing the agreement with St. Luke’s, Miller said on Monday. At that time, the Board of Trustees began investigating a new replacement partnership to keep the hospital prosperous. 

Miller said the board didn’t want to sell the hospital or partner with someone who would simply turn it into an urgent care, degrading its capabilities. This led to the new potential partnership with AdventHealth. 

“Advent is an organization that is very faith-based,” Miller said. “They’re very community-based. They want their hospitals to stand on their own in their own communities. To us, that seemed like a good fit.”

Under a proposed agreement, AdventHealth could potentially take over financial responsibility for St. Luke’s, which is different from the hospital’s previous agreement with Atrium. The first step in that process would be for the county to approve the 20-year sublease of the land where the hospital sits to Advent. The hospital isn’t being sold, Miller said. 

St. Luke’s Board of Trustees will remain in existence; however, an additional board will be formed to be in charge of day-to-day operations. This new board will have nine members: two from the St. Luke’s board and two to be chosen from the community. Advent will appoint the remaining five members. The two boards are intended to work together. 

Miller added that Advent is passionate about keeping all current St. Luke’s staff employed at the hospital and wants to enhance, support, and improve the institution. 

“We need to do something to ensure that we have a hospital here for a long time,” Miller said. “Hopefully, this agreement provides us with a lot of input, but also gives us a partner that can make this happen for a long time going forward.”

A special meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, at the Womack Building. A representative from Advent will give a short presentation and answer community and board member questions about the proposed partnership. The BOC will also consider making a declaration in support of subleasing the premises to AdventHealth.