UT Seeks Hospital Options (285)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– The University of Tennessee Medical Center needs options to stay competitive and UT plans to ask the legislature for the flexibility to meet changes in health care, UT President Joe Johnson said Friday.

 Johnson, speaking to hospital employees, said state law currently puts the center at a competitive disadvantage with area hospitals.

 UT’s board of trustees is expected to vote next week whether to seek legislation giving the board authority to:

 * make no changes in the medical center.

* convert it to a non-profit corporation.

* lease it to another corporation.

 * sell it.

 State regulations prohibit UT from responding quickly and effectively to issues confronting large, complex academic medical centers, Johnson said. Several other states have given their medical centers options similar to those UT seeks, he said.

 “We can’t borrow money for operating programs or working capital,” Johnson said. “We are in a business that is changing rapidly and we need to be able to respond rapidly.

“The health care industry has changed more in the last five years than in the previous 40. The UT Medical Center was established in the 1950s, and it does not have the management options to compete in the 21st Century.”

 But he said the center currently is financially sound and does not have a budget deficit.

 In any management change that might occur, Johnson said the center would continue as a teaching and research hospital and the graduate school of medicine would remain part of UT.

He assured hospital employees, physicians, and other medical center staff they will have input into any proposed changes at the medical center, Johnson said.

 The 600-bed hospital has approximately 3,800 employees. Dr. Charles Mercer is the center’s executive vice chancellor.

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 Contact: Dr. Charles Mercer (423-544-9430)