The owners of the Sitka Hotel have approached the city about purchasing Sitka Community Hospital. Their interest is in unexpected development in Sitka’s ongoing effort to decide the future of health care in the community. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The owners of a local hotel and restaurant are interested in purchasing Sitka Community Hospital. Their inquiry comes less than two weeks before the Assembly is scheduled to consider a competing offer by the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

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Rob and Deborah Petrie own the Sitka Hotel and in scoping out their next business venture, they’re looking seriously at Sitka Community Hospital. Pending a tour of the facility and a look at the hospital’s financial statements, Rob Petrie said they plan to come before the Assembly on July 25th with an offer.

Right now, the major offer on the table is from the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium who want to merge operations. See their proposal here.

The Petries are originally from Fort Worth, Texas, where they have a modest but diverse portfolio. “Every business is the same. We own car dealerships, we own storage facilities, we own tunnel car washes, we own several doctor’s offices that we lease back to hospitals,” Rob Petrie said.

Moreover, he believes the business of a hospital is the same as that of a doctor’s office – just scaled up. “You don’t have to be a doctor. You don’t have to have a special degree. You just have to have the ability and the means to make this type of business work. We wouldn’t buy it if we didn’t think we could make it work and much better than it is now,” he said.

Should the Assembly approve the sale, Petrie said he’d hire a management company or private entity to run the hospital. His preference is to look internally when hiring staff.

“We’d hire a CEO and a CFO and a couple upper management people to really make sure things are going the way they should and that it’s making money. But I wouldn’t be interested in firing anybody and replacing them with anybody without a more thorough evaluation,” Petrie elaborated.

Their offer is still a hypothetical, though quickly in the making. The Petries met recently with city staff (Thursday 7-6-17). They have not yet drafted a formal offer, nor named a dollar amount. But they wants their offer to be competitive. SEARHC has pledged $6.5 million up front, and $600,000 every year for five years to lease the building.

Petrie says he’d pay “a little more.” He’s also open to a buyback program, where the city leases the hospital from them and it continues it as a non-profit. No matter the outcome, he wants to provide quality care and buck a national trend of consolidation by keeping two hospitals in Sitka.

“You should have a choice and if one hospital buys the other only hospital in town, what does that sound like to you? Sounds like a monopoly,” he said.

Hospital administration and the board leadership declined to comment on his emergent interest. It’s really for the Assembly to decide how seriously to take their proposal. They’ll next discuss healthcare on Thursday, July 13th at a special meeting with Sitka Community Hospital.