City council members come out in favor of Lutheran buyout

Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford discusses the proposed Lutheran Health Network buyout on May 19, 2017.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford held a news conference Friday morning along with other council members to show support for the proposed sale of Lutheran Health Network from Community Health Systems to a group of area doctors and investors.

“The community and local doctors want to pick their own partner going forward and CHS is clearly not that partner,” Crawford said.

Crawford was joined by Tom Didier, Russ Jehl and Jason Arp.

Because healthcare is the number one employer in Allen County, city council is committed to the long-term health of the industry, which employs more than 30,000 jobs according to Crawford.

He believes Lutheran Health Network is subsidizing losses incurred by Community Health Systems, which had a net loss of $1.7 billion in 2016.  Conversely, Lutheran Health Network generated $300 million in net profits according to Crawford. Community Health Systems is staying quiet about the bid, but some Lutheran Health Network employees are not.

“Last night the board of directors passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the ownership and control by community health systems over St. Joe Hospital and the Lutheran Health Network,” Crawford said.

The Medical Staff of Lutheran Hospital also passed a vote of no confidence in the parent company. Crawford also mentioned a rally set for Saturday morning at Lutheran Hospital intended to show support for the buyout.

“Last night the medical staff met in a scheduled meeting called by the medical staff president. They unanimously support the buyout. The St. Joe Hospital Board unanimously supports the buyout, so if the message matters that the community thinks this buyout should happen,” Crawford said. “Then we have sent a message.”

He also made it clear that he is part of an independent physician group and he is not personally financially involved with the buyout effort.

“As a city councilman, I support this proposed buyout as a way to foster economic development and capital investment into Fort Wayne. It is much more beneficial for Fort Wayne residents when the profits generated by the Lutheran Health Network are able to remain in Fort Wayne,“ said Crawford.

Crawford’s comments come the day after Lutheran Health Network CEO Brian Bauer answered questions for the first time about Community Health Systems plans for a $500 million investment in the group’s facilities. However Bauer wouldn’t talk about whether the proposed buyout was talked about during his meetings with Community Health Systems officials earlier this week.

“I was in Tennessee having conversations with our parent company and some physicians were there as well, but I can’t comment on the content of that dialogue,” Bauer told NewsChannel 15 reporter Holly Campbell.