Medical providers to compete for facility

Medical Center Bid Illustration

Herald Staff

WKU pulled its deal with The Medical Center for the Health Sports Medicine Complex on Tuesday after discussions between the university and the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight committee in Frankfort and plans to put the project out to bid.

“Following a lengthy discussion that centered on concerns outlined in a protest letter from WKONA, Western Kentucky Orthopedic and Neurological Associates, WKU officials agreed to issue a Request for Proposals and bid the overall project and all aspects it entails,” Bob Skipper, director of media relations, said in an email.

Skipper said WKU officials plan to issue an RFP this coming Monday inviting bids.

President Gary Ransdell said there was a good, constructive discussion with the oversight committee, but the committee made it clear they would be more comfortable with a bidding process.

Ransdell said he called afterwards to tell officials at The Medical Center and said they understood the situation and will likely be an aggressive bidder.

He also said there will be a committee in place for the RFP process, one in which he will offer no oversight or influence.

The university’s decision to pull the deal with The Medical Center comes after WKONA filed a legal protest against the deal between WKU and The Medical Center on Sept. 2.

WKONA is the former health services provider for WKU Athletics and is owned by current campus health services provider Graves-Gilbert Clinic.

WKONA’s protest was filed to the state Finance and Administration Cabinet and claims procurement laws and regulations to promote fairness and transparency were not followed in the execution of the deal. They also called for the Finance and Administration Cabinet to block the deal between WKU and The Medical Center.

“It is apparent from documents we have received that this 99-year, $22 million deal was consummated behind closed doors without using legally-required open competitive processes,” the protest states.

The deal between WKU and The Medical Center stems from the Aug. 19 Board of Regents meeting where the board gave approval for Ransdell to enter into the deal with The Medical Center.

The deal entailed The Medical Center footing the bill on construction of the new facility, leasing the land of the new building to The Medical Center for 99 years at $1 a year and providing The Medical Center orthopedics teams as the exclusive physicians for WKU’s athletic departments.

WKONA claims that while they were approached with the offer to fund the new facility, WKONA and other health service providers were not offered the lease or exclusive rights as campus health services and were not allowed to compete for a bid.

The protest also states that WKU “made clear that it sought out this partnership without attempting to solicit bids with private providers.” The protest cites an email Ransdell sent to the Board of Regents and later forwarded to Connie Smith, CEO of The Medical Center, in which he instructs to the board that he had already met with Smith to negotiate the final terms of the Letter of Intent.

The email in question, which was also obtained by the Herald through an open records request, also includes a newly attached version of the letter of intent with edits made by the The Medical Center as well as Ransdell, Smith and Regents Frederick Higdon and Gillard Johnson, both of whom voted in favor of the deal at the regents meeting in August.

The board was originally slated to meet on Aug. 10 to conduct a “special meeting” where the board was to discuss the deal, but Ransdell states in his email that since The Medical Center Board had not met yet to agree to the new letter of intent they would postpone the regent meeting to Aug. 19.

“I must remind each Board member and those WKU VPs who are working on this, that absolute CONFIDENTIALITY is critical,” Ransdell writes in this email to the WKU Board of Regents. “We cannot engage any party in any discussion of this until the Med Center Board acts; and you, the WKU Board of Regents, makes a decision.”

In an email between Robbin Taylor, vice president of public affairs, and Doris Thomas, vice president of marketing and development and corporate spokesperson for The Medical Center, there was also a change in how the board would vote on Aug. 19 on the deal in open session as opposed to a closed session.

“Because that vote will be in the public session, I have advised Gary that we really have no choice but to issue the news release immediately following the affirmative vote,” Taylor said in the email.

Ransdell said the process should move quickly after this point and the committee overseeing the process will include a student representative.