The Louisiana Catholic nonprofit primed to purchase the Gulf Coast’s Singing River Health System will not be moving forward with the deal.
Singing River and Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System announced they were terminating negotiations in a press release Wednesday night. The two companies claimed it was a joint decision.
“Both parties engaged in extensive negotiations in an effort to reach an agreement, but ultimately, consensus could not be achieved,” the release reads.
It’s not clear what led to the breakdown in discussions.
The announcement is the latest development in a saga that’s been surprising from start to finish.
The former Singing River CEO Tiffany Murdock announced the 700-bed health system was seeking a buyer last year, despite coming out of the pandemic in better financial shape than most Mississippi hospitals.
Singing River has clinics and medical facilities across the Coast, including hospitals in Gulfport, Ocean Springs and Pascagoula.
Nearly half of the state’s rural hospitals are at risk of closure, according to one report, due to major financial issues. Singing River, on the other hand, grew its revenue in 2021.
The system hasn’t been without challenges, though — Singing River’s Gulfport hospital had to suspend its labor and delivery services earlier this year because of staffing shortages.
The health system was seeking a buyer as a preventative measure, preparing for future challenges, according to the former CEO.
“We’re coming at it now at a place of strength,” Murdock told a community group in Hurley in August 2022. “And in five years, I can’t promise you the same thing.”
Jackson County’s Board of Supervisors chose the nonprofit as the health system’s preferred buyer in March after a “rigorous” bidding process.
The Catholic health system, based in Baton Rouge, operates St. Dominic Memorial Hospital in Jackson and nine facilities throughout Louisiana.
But for months, the sale has been quietly pending.
When Mississippi Today inquired about the sale in June, spokespeople said discussions about the sale were ongoing. However, earlier this week, when Mississippi Today reached out to a spokesperson for the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System requesting confirmation that the deal had fallen through, she did not respond.
The president and CEO of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, Dr. Richard Vath, says in the press release that despite their decision, the Catholic nonprofit was impressed by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors’ and Singing River’s commitment to “delivering quality healthcare” to the Coast.
“At this unprecedented time of uncertainty in healthcare, we regret that both parties could not reach consensus,” he said. “We wish the very best for Jackson County and SRHS in the future.”
It appears the health system will move forward with its search for a buyer — Ken Taylor, president of the Board of Supervisors, said in the press release that the board is committed to “finding the ideal partner to fulfill [the hospital’s] long-term objectives.”
“We remain resolute in our dedication to preserving SRHS’s exceptional legacy, which spans over eight decades,” Taylor said.
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