St. Joseph Medical Center has narrowed its search for a strategic partner to three, the hospital said Wednesday.
The troubled hospital did not identify the finalists, but several sources with knowledge of the process confirmed that the potential buyers are LifeBridge Health, which owns Sinai and Northwest hospitals; Ascension Health, which owns St. Agnes Hospital; and the University of Maryland Medical System.
"The St. Joseph Medical Center Board met Jan. 19 and narrowed the number of potential strategic partners to three for the next round of discussions," reads a statement from St. Joseph. "No final decisions have been made. We've been extremely pleased with the responses we've received and our dialogue continues with the three selected providers. Over the next 60 days, additional work will be undertaken to assist the board's decision making and in determining the next steps in the process."
The statement also said maintaining St. Joseph's Catholic identity "was one of the guiding principles when we issued the request for proposal to other providers to explore strategic partnerships for St. Joseph. Catholic identity continues to be foremost in our consideration. All of the providers, including the selected providers, agreed to honor St. Joseph's Catholic identity."
Bonnie Phipps, president and chief executive of St. Agnes, remained mum on a possible acquisition but said, "St. Agnes Hospital supports a strong, vibrant Catholic health care ministry." Those at Maryland have publicly confirmed their interest in the past but declined to comment Wednesday.
Warren Green, the chief executive officer of LifeBridge Health, said Wednesday that his group will spend the next month in the "data gathering" stage, looking at St. Joseph's finances. He said the finalists will have to present a final proposal to St. Joseph by the end of the month.
He declined to give too much detail about what he called "sensitive negotiations," but said St. Joseph would fit welll into the LifeBridge Health family. In addition to the two community hospitals, LifeBridge Health includes Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center & Hospital and Courtland Gardens Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.
"We see St. Joseph as being a very well-respected organization in this community that has had a long history," Green said. "If we could work with St. Joseph's and help turn the institution back to positive territory again, then it will be a value to us."
The hospital's image and finances have taken a hit in recent years since its star cardiologist, Dr. Mark Midei, was accused of performing hundreds of unnecessary medical procedures. The hospital notifed approximately 600 patients that they had stents placed in their arteries that they might not have needed.
Hundreds of those former patients have since sued St. Joseph and its parent company. The hospital has also lost revenue, patient admissions and doctors and other staff. The hospital recently said it would lay off 17 workers.
The hospital also has agreed to increased federal oversight after federal accusations of a kickback scheme that resulted in a $22 million settlement and repayment of funds for questionable procedures.
Midei has left the hospital and lost his license in Maryland in a decision by the Maryland Board of Physicians. He is seeking to have that decision overturned.