Westerly Hospital special master wants to negotiate purchase with one bidder

Attorney Mark Russo, the special master handling The Westerly Hospital receivership case, has asked Judge Brian Stern for permission to bring a "stalking horse" bid for the hospital before the court.

The judge will consider Russo's request on Wednesday. In a "stalking horse" bid, Russo would negotiate a purchase agreement with one of the health care companies that has expressed interest in acquiring the financially troubled hospital. Other suitors would then be invited to make a better offer.

In a petition to the judge, Russo said he is aware that some stakeholders "have voiced legitimate concerns about advancing a stalking horse bid and the potential impact on the process," but he said he believes it would be beneficial to the final outcome. The stalking horse bid would be required to meet certain conditions, among them that the hospital remain an acute care community hospital, maintain all lines of care, keep current employees, make capital investments in the hospital and have adequate financial wherewithal.

Among parties that have expressed interest in The Westerly Hospital are Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London; South County Hospital in Wakefield, R.I.; and Westerly Hospital Holdco, a for-profit hospital management company affiliated with a New Jersey firm.

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