TURLOCK — Emanuel Medical Center of Turlock continues with exclusive negotiations with Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., but there may be no announcement on the potential sale of the hospital until January, the hospital's top executive said.
"I think it would be a miracle to have it done before the holidays," Emanuel Chief Executive Officer John Sigsbury said Friday.
He said there are no sticking points in the talks. The two entities are working through a due-diligence process, with attorneys and accountants looking at 30,000 pages of records that were uploaded to a secure Web site, he said.
Emanuel officials made a visit to a Catholic hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla., that is part of Tenet's for-profit chain of hospitals. They were impressed that the hospital has maintained its faith-based identity within the company's health system, Sigsbury said.
The Turlock hospital announced in September that it was engaged in negotiations that could result in the sale of the 209-bed church-owned center to Tenet. Given the economic realities in the health care sector, hospital leaders have said a merger with a larger organization would be good for both Emanuel and the delivery of hospital services in Turlock.
Emanuel, an 85-year-old center owned by the Evangelical Covenant Church, wants to keep its religious orientation if it becomes the 50th hospital owned by Tenet, a publicly traded company. Sigsbury said it has followed a set of ethical and religious guidelines that govern the hospital's approach to sanctity-of-life issues and the care of patients.
According to its guidelines, the center's mission and core values are rooted in the Christian faith and the Judeo-Christian tradition.
"We also want to maintain our robust pastoral care and chaplaincy programs," the CEO said. "We have excellent relationships with local Covenant churches that we want to maintain."
A Tenet representative did not return calls Friday.
Emanuel also is talking with a group of Modesto surgeons about a contract with its cardiac services program. Three months ago, the hospital parted ways with a surgeon who was brought in to lead the cardiac program, which was launched in 2010.
If a contract is signed, Dr. Noel Concepcion and two colleagues with Greater Modesto Medical Surgical Associates would perform elective heart surgeries at Emanuel starting next year.
"We are carrying on discussions independent of whether or not Tenet buys the facility," said Concepcion, a longtime Modesto surgeon with close ties to Doctors Medical Center.
He said the surgeons would handle "straightforward" cases at Emanuel and bring Turlock patients needing more complex surgeries to Doctors. The group could add another surgeon if needed to meet the demand for surgeries at the two hospitals.
"A lot of it depends on the volume of the patients," Concepcion said. "Part of the negotiations is trying to ensure the program (at Emanuel) is well-supported and we can do the cases that can be safely done there."
Construction of hybrid operating rooms for the program is on schedule to be finished in the spring, Sigsbury said.
Some community leaders want to see Emanuel's expansion of services carried forward if there is a merger with Tenet. In addition to the cardiac program, the hospital partnered with Stanford to open a cancer treatment center in 2007.
"The administrators and board at Emanuel have really stepped up with the serv-ice enhancements in the last 10 years," Turlock Mayor John Lazar said.
The hospital has provided the services closer to home for people in Turlock, as well as residents in western Stanislaus County and northern Merced County, he said.
A deal to sell the nonprofit hospital to Tenet would require approval from the state attorney general. California's top legal official is supposed to ensure the local community gets the appropriate value from the sale of the nonprofit.
Sigsbury said he could not talk about a possible sale price for the hospital. He has said a foundation would be formed to receive the proceeds of the transaction. The foundation could support causes such as health education and local health care services.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.