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Debate continues over BHCS sale

March 18, 1997



By Martha Roberts

Lariat Reporter

Conflicting reports on the future of the Baylor Health Care System indicate that rumors of an impending decision may be greatly exaggerated.

A new option in the ongoing saga may open the door for Baylor University to add to its endowment funds while allowing the BHCS to gain control over its future, according to an article in Sunday's Waco Tribune-Herald.

According to a Friday article in The Dallas Morning News, Baylor Board of Regents chairman Randy Fields, a San Antonio attorney, said that there is 'no way on the face of the earth' that the BHCS could be sold because of too much negative publicity.

On the other hand, Vice President of University Marketing Stan Madden denied on Monday that the University has taken any position.

'It's just a rumor,' Madden said. 'We have no position on that.'

The Tribune-Herald article reported that the University would allow the BHCS to make its own decisions on how to remain competitive in the current health care market, but only if the University would receive a share of the profits if the system is ever sold.

According to Madden, however, the most recent proposal cited in the Tribune-Herald is only speculation. Fields and Oswin Chrisman, a former University regent and current chairman of the Baylor Health Care System trustees, in Friday's Morning News article also acknowledged it still might be too early to discuss this type of agreement.

When asked if the University would prefer selling the BHCS over allowing the system to control its own destiny, Madden stated that the University will wait for its consultants' report before making any decision. The report is expected to come in the next few weeks.

'Frankly, our preference is to wait,' Madden said.

Public opinion has not favored a sale of the non-profit system to a for-profit corporation because of concerns that losing the BHCS' assets would hurt the Dallas community. The attorney general ruled that part of the proceeds from a sale had to be spent in the Dallas area, and BHCS trustees encouraged the public to write the University regents in protest.

The University recently appointed an advisory board consisting of University regents and BHCS trustees to explore options other than selling the BHCS. According to the Tribune-Herald, the University also hired two consulting firms, Ernst & Young and McManis Associates, Inc., in addition to Nashville consultant Josh Nemzoff. Nemzoff and the University have been criticized for allegedly obtaining financial information from the BHCS under the assumed name of 'Bill Jones.'

If the BHCS is allowed to buy itself out from under University control, Baylor could receive millions of dollars, but not the estimated $1 billion that was anticipated from an outright sale, according to the Tribune-Herald.

Baylor regent Nancy Thurmond said in a Monday telephone interview that she is 'very, very happy' with Baylor's efforts to keep the regents informed, but would not comment further.

'Anything that's right for the University is right for me,' Thurmond said. 'My loyalty is to the University.'

Thurmond directed further questions to Fields, who was out of town and could not be reached Monday.

University regents are slated to be in Waco later this week for a regular March meeting.

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