Dr. Bob Corkern appears to be the highest bidder for purchase of Tri-Lakes Medical Center and should own the facility, city and county officials agreed in a joint meeting held Monday morning.
The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen and the Panola County Board of Supervisors voted for a six-page resolution accepting Corkern’s total bid of $28.1 million for ownership of public-owned Tri-Lakes.
Corkern is the current hospital administrator.
The two public bodies met at 11 a.m. at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville. Both bodies voted unanimously to adopt the resolution.
The hospital’s board of trustees was also present at the meeting.
The old South Panola Hospital known as the west campus is not included in the sale of Tri-Lakes, the resolution states.
The next step in the sale of Tri-lakes is a contractual phase in which Corkern and the hospital’s owners, the county and city, must work out the finer details of the sale.
The proposed contract will be ready for the city and county to review on Wednesday, April 27, and both boards could take up the matter at their meetings in early May. The contract will then be sent to Corkern.
City leaders voted to adopt the resolution without discussion, but supervisors questioned the future of quality healthcare at Tri-Lakes as well as Corkern’s ability to pay for the facility.
Corkern’s bid beat out the next-closest bidder, LifePoint Hospitals, Inc., which bid $23.3 million for the purchase of Tri-Lakes.
Since the bidding process began, Baptist Memorial Healthcare and Resurgence Healthcare have dropped out, leaving Corkern and LifePoint as the leading contenders.
Corkern’s bid for Tri-Lakes came through a partnership he belongs to, Physicians and Surgeons Group, LLC (P & S).
Asked by The Panolian who belongs to his new firm, Corkern said he is presently the sole member.
"It’s just me as far as ownership," Corkern said.
Corkern is promising to pay $28 million for Tri-Lakes even though he has yet to actually start P and S, noted Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins, who voiced skepticism about Corkern’s ability to pay $28 million.
The comparison figures between P & S and LifePoint were prepared by consultant J.C. Burns and associates of his firm, who were present at the meeting where they explained the resolution and answered questions.
Burns, a former Batesville banker, is under contract with the city and county to work with hospital bidders.
Corkern is putting down a $4 million non-refundable deposit as a promise to fulfill his bid, Burns noted, and he will lose that money if he’s unable to come up with the funds.
Apparently unconvinced by that gesture, Perkins pressed Burns to vouch for Corkern’s ability to pay the remaining $24.1 million, asking if Burns had asked for a commitment letter from a financial lender.
"Do you have a firm commitment that they have the money?" Perkins asked.
"No," Burns said, adding, however, that the possible loss of $4 million is an obvious indicator that Corkern can pay for the hospital.
"Personally I don’t know of any people – however wealthy they are – that could walk away from $4 million," Burns said.
"So you’re not going to ask for a firm commitment on $21 million?" Perkins asked.
"The asking will be when you send to them the contract," Burns said.
According to Corkern, he selected a financial lender from among five that offered to back him financially. He would not name the winning lender.
Perkins also pressed for reassurance from Burns that, should Corkern fail to come up with the funds, LifePoint would be an option.
Burns said LifePoint’s offer would still be on the table if the deal with Corkern and P & S fell through.
According to Burns’ comparison analysis of Physicians and Surgeons and LifePoint, P & S will pay the bulk of its bid for Tri-Lakes through $19 million in bonds while LifePoint has $21.5 million in cash. P & S claimed zero cash in its bid.
P & S also has $2 million in assets over liabilities and promised $4.6 million for assumption of liabilities.
LifePoint claimed no assets over liabilities and $1.2 million for assumption of liabilities.
Corkern apparently modified his Tri-Lakes bid on June 4 and June 11, bumping his bid $3.8 million after diverting $3.5 million from a plan to fund scholarships and promising to pay $300,000 in various fees.
Reached after the meeting, Burns said the $4 million promised by Corkern is included in the $28 million total as is the cost of the bond defeasance.
After the meeting, Perkins said he voted for the resolution because Corkern is the apparent high bidder.
"Corkern’s the highest bid, and by law we must accept it," Perkins told The Panolian. "If he can’t pay, then we’ll move on to the next bidder."
District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant also pressed for reassurance that the hospital would provide quality healthcare if it’s purchased by Corkern.
"He might be the highest bidder, but that doesn’t mean he’s the best," Avant said. "You all are talking a lot about dollar figures, but there’s no mention of the quality of healthcare."
The details about the quality of healthcare are covered in the Request for Proposal sent out to potential bidders, answered City of Batesville attorney Colmon Mitchell.
"Everyone on our team is gratified and grateful, and we hope to make good on the trust the people of Panola County have placed in us," Corkern told The Panolian following the adoption of the resolution.