While the successful bidders for the now-bankrupt Moore Medical Center have yet to file new change-of-ownership papers with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, officials with Norman Regional Hospital said Thursday they have submitted “a conditional application” to ODH to protect their second-place bid, and ensure the facility stays open should the winning bid fall through.

In a statement e-mailed to The Transcript, Lisa Beckloff, an NRH spokesperson, said Norman hospital administrators filed a change-of-ownership application with the state Department of Health Wednesday.

“Although Norman Regional was not the selected bidder for the Moore Medical Center, the licensure application was filed in an effort to ensure the Moore hospital could remain open in the event the planned sale is not completed,” Beckloff said. “As reported in The Transcript, the request for licensure is an issue that could lead to the facility closing.”

The change-of-ownership filing is a key component to the successful sale of the hospital — being cited by Oklahoma federal bankruptcy judge T.W. Weaver in a Jan. 23 court order.

“…therefore it is imperative that any proposed purchaser file change-of-ownership paperwork with the Oklahoma Department of Health … no later than Jan. 28,” Weaver wrote.

That deadline was necessary, the judge said, “… so the debtor can close (the hospital’s sale) before it runs out of cash.”

Court documents show that Moore hospital’s $7 million loan from Hall Financial is almost gone.

“The debtor (the hospital) has a post-petition negative cash flow of more than $5 million to date,” Weaver wrote. “And a total negative cash flow of $7 million is anticipated by Feb. 28.”

Should the hospital not sell before the end of February, Weaver predicted the facility would close.

“In the event the debtor is unable to consummate a sale … the debtor will necessarily cease operations and the case will most likely be converted to one under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code.”

Norman Regional officials, Whitaker said, don’t want to see that happen.

Whitaker said he didn’t want the Moore hospital to close “even for a short time,” because that closure “would be an incredibly tough hurdle to overcome.”

“We continue to be interested in working with the folks at Moore Medical Center,” he said. “As it was pointed out, that filing with the health department is a big issue.”

By filing their change-of-ownership paperwork now, Whitaker said, NRH’s bid is protected — and the Moore hospital would remain open — should the bid by MMC Holdings-Oklahoma Healthcare Systems fall through.

The state Department of Health requires 30 days to process change-of-ownership documents.

“This would help keep it open,” Whitaker said. “But, it is a shot in the dark.”

Though Whitaker would not disclose NRH’s bid for the Moore facility, Fred Minter, a representative of MMC Holdings-Oklahoma Healthcare System — the successful bidder — said that group’s joint bid totaled $49 million.

“We’re the top bid,” Minter told The Transcript earlier this month. “We’re the only bidder that’s currently there.”

Still, Whitaker said NRH officials haven’t given up their efforts to buy the hospital.

“Moore is a part of our regional community and we are committed to the citizens of Moore,” he said. “The Moore hospital would help us facilitate the delivery of health care services to people in Moore, Norman, Cleveland County and south Oklahoma City.”

Whitaker said NRH officials were impressed by “the pride the Moore Community has shown” in the hospital.

“Sure it’s competition,” he said. “But again, the people in Moore deserve to have a health care facility. It’s a well-designed, well-built facility and it’s in excellent shape.”

While Schuster Group officials continue to work toward the hospital’s sale, Whitaker said Norman officials would continue their efforts “until the bankruptcy court hammers the gavel and says a deal has been closed.”

“We’re waiting to see what happens,” Whitaker said. “We’re hoping some type of decision is forthcoming. It’s incredible, this whole process. It’s been a learning experience for us.”

M. Scott Carter366-3545scarter@normantranscript.com

This Week's Circulars