Len Lacefield

Len Lacefield, CEO of Southern Plains Medical Center, answers questions about a proposal by an organization to buy Grady Memorial Hospital following a Tea Party meeting on Thursday.

The CEO of Southern Plains Medical Center (SPMC) in Chickasha has announced there is a proposal to solve the future of Grady Memorial Hospital that does not involve a sales tax.

Len Lacefield, the chief executive of SPMC, revealed the plan at the Grady County Tea Party meeting on Thursday. It involves One Cura, an organization that owns hospitals in Anadarko and Stroud, purchasing Grady Memorial.

SPMC leases the operating rooms at The Physicians' Hospital in Anadarko, which is owned by One Cura. Lacefield said his work with the managing company there made him aware of the proposition.

"I don't know much about Grady's function, but I do know it failed," Lacefield said. "I don't know why it failed, and I don't care to know. But I do care that Grady has to get back open. I just don't believe it should be at the cost of the taxpayers."

Grady Memorial is working toward fixing its operating rooms, which were shut down last summer following an inspection that found issues with the air conditioning and humidity levels. A quarter-percent sales tax will be on the ballot in a Feb. 9 election that would enable Grady Memorial to build a new operation wing.

Warren K. Spellman, CEO of Grady Memorial, said Lacefield came to the Grady Memorial Hospital Authority about his knowledge of an interested party in buying the hospital. Spellman said he later learned it was One Cura, but there has been no proposal or communication since.

"We have had no meeting with One Cura, or no written or verbal offer, or anything," Spellman said. "We're listening to a potential idea, but nothing official."

Lacefield said One Cura is a not-for-profit organization in the business of providing healthcare to rural communities. On its website, which contains no contact information other than a list of Trustees and the hospitals it runs, One Cura states its mission is to "provide quality health services to our communities by collaborating with community leaders and hospital staffs in offering efficient services tailored for each locale."

"They are, for the most part, capitalists," Lacefield said about One Cura. "It's not a multi-tiered organization. They hire managing companies. In fact, they bought the hospital in Anadarko. The city was losing all kinds of money, and they turned it around and they've been making significant revenues."

Spellman said he and the hospital authority were open to hearing One Cura's proposition; however, he is wary about the timing and the venue for a public announcement.

"I'm skeptical as to why now, and why at a Tea Party meeting?" Spellman said. "It's not going to dissuade us from going forward with the sales tax. Because we have embarked on the sales tax campaign, this rather late development puts us in a quandary."

At this point, Spellman said, moving forward with the due diligence and process to sell something in a public trust would push the deal beyond the Feb. 9 sales tax election date.

Spellman also wondered whether it was a conflict of interest for One Cura and SPMC, due to their partnership in Anadarko.

Lacefield said Grady Memorial's inactive operating rooms were not helping, and are actually hurting, SPMC. He said SPMC relies on the hospital for about 70 percent of physicians' admissions, and their surgeons help bring millions in revenue to the hospital.

In response, Spellman said SPMC does benefit when Grady Memorial has to send patients to Anadarko for operations. The more patients that must be sent there for surgeries, which are conducted in the operating rooms leased by SPMC, the more they and One Cura benefit, Spellman said.

"We're not complaining," he said. "We're sending them. Our patients have to go somewhere, and we understand that."

At Thursday night's meeting, Lacefield went on to describe a cordial relationship between SPMC and Grady Memorial, as well as between himself and Spellman.

"One thing we stand for is that this community deserves not only the best healthcare, but a unified group," Lacefield said.

Spellman said while there is mutual respect, he does not see the same relationship as Lacefield.

"I don't see Len is looking out for hospital's best interest," Spellman said. "He is looking out for his business interest, and that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that."

Spellman said he plans on attending the Jan. 14 special Tea Party meeting at the Canadian Valley Technology Center, where Lacefield, One Cura representatives, and other community leaders will gather for a lengthy hospital discussion.

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