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Lee Health board votes 9-1 to move forward on change to private nonprofit

lee memorial hospital
Lee Health
As part of its current business structure, Lee Health is limited to operating in Lee County. The move to a private nonprofit would free the system to expand outside of the county.

The health system has been contemplating the move for months to remain competitive in Southwest Florida. The next step is finalizing a mission agreement with the Lee County Commission.

Lee Health, one of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital systems, has taken a major step toward converting to a privately funded nonprofit.

In a move to remain competitive in Southwest Florida's shifting health care environment, Lee Health's board of directors on Thursday voted 9-1 to make the change.

The next step is finalizing a mission agreement with the County Commission over the next few months, the health system said.

The new business model will include an oversight board that will include members of Lee Health's primary service areas, an attorney and someone with a financial/business background.

“By transitioning to a community-focused nonprofit, we can better secure the resources needed to uphold our safety-net mission and ensure continued delivery of exceptional health care for the residents of Lee County,” the system said on its website.

Since 1968, the county has owned and operated Lee Health through the publicly elected board of directors.

As part of its legal structure, it is limited to operating in Lee County. However, the repeal of parts of Florida's Certificate of Need program in 2019 has made it easier for competitors to expand in the growing region, including Collier County.

The move frees the system to expand services outside of Lee and partner with other medical groups and teaching hospitals.

Lee Health has spent the past year assessing what the change would mean. In addition to bringing in a consultant, it has held town meetings to get input from the public.

Leadership has determined the change is needed to preserve “financial sustainability, independence and community-led structure long term,” the system said on its website.

Copyright 2024 Health News Florida

I’m the online producer for Health News Florida, a collaboration of public radio stations and NPR that delivers news about health care issues.