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Lee Health evaluating transition to private non-profit status

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Posted at 8:06 AM, Dec 26, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lee Health, a provider in healthcare for over a century, is currently exploring a transition from a public not-for-profit entity to a private one.

For its first 50 years, Lee Health operated as a private non-profit before shifting to its current public model. Now, the organization says it's reassessing its framework to ensure it continues to fulfill its mission effectively.

"The simple fact is we want to know what is the best structure that will allow us to maintain our mission, to be a safety net provider and to maintain local control," said Lawrence Antonucci, President and CEO of Lee Health.

The six-month assessment will explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of reverting to a private non-profit status.

One of the critical assurances from hospital leaders is the minimal impact this change would have on patients and staff.

"Patients should not see any difference whatsoever and any of the staff. We're still going to be Lee Health and we're still going to be here serving the community as we have for over 100 years," Antonucci said.

A pivotal aspect of Lee Health's service is its role as a safety net provider, offering care regardless of patients' ability to pay, Antonucci said. This factor is a primary consideration in their evaluation process.

"Does the conversion to a private non-for-profit actually meet that requirement of being able to maintain our safety net status? If they decide that it doesn't, then the process ends right there," Antonucci explained.

Should the conversion be approved, Lee Health could expand its operations beyond Lee County, a limitation imposed under its current status.

This change would allow for more partnerships, joint ventures with physicians, and the expansion of outpatient care, offering more comprehensive services to the region, he said.

The initial evaluation phase is expected to conclude by the end of February. Following this, both Lee Health's Board of Directors and the Lee County Board of Commissioners will vote on the proposed changes. If approved, these changes could be implemented as early as October 2024.