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      Duke LifePoint reps meet with MGH employees

      Employees at Marquette General got the chance to meet and greet their potential new bosses Wednesday. Tuesday, the hospital announced it has entered into a non-binding agreement for sale to Duke LifePoint.

      Duke LifePoint is a joint venture of Duke University Health System and LifePoint Hospitals, a for-profit organization. They're excited about the future, and that sentiment is echoed by many in the community. But some say it's important we keep a close eye on their plans for the future.

      Duke LifePoint says Marquette General is already a world-class regional hospital, and that's what attracted them. The new owners say the facility should fare well with the coming health care reform challenges.

      The for-profit agency says they've got big plans to enhance quality care and expand service lines with the capital resources they bring to the table.

      "What we want to do initially is to listen more than we talk, and find out exactly what those needs are," said Bill Carpenter, CEO of LifePoint Hospitals.

      So far, they've proposed construction of new facilities, technology and a boost in physician recruitment.

      "Our planning going forward will be to provide great local service, great local quality, so the vast majority of patients can get their care right here," said Harry Phillips, CMO of Network Services for Duke.

      They say all current employees will be retained, and the deal will meet the hospital's pension obligations.

      But the Michigan Nurses Association, which represents MGH nurses, says the community needs to take a closer look at this potential sale.

      In a statement, Director John Karebian says:

      "Our No. 1 concern is whether our professional nurses at Marquette General will be able to maintain their high standards of patient care and safety if the hospital is taken over by a for-profit company. The community counts on Marquette General, many times, as their only source of health care. Yet without any warning or conversation with the community, an unknown outsider has shown up whose priority is making money for their shareholders.

      "Losing a community hospital that focuses on patients to a corporation that focuses on profits is a drastic change that cannot be undone and carries great risks. On behalf of the patients they serve day in and day out, our Marquette General nurses strongly encourage the community to carefully examine whether giving control of the hometown hospital to CEOs who put shareholder profits before patient care is the right thing to do."

      City leaders say they, too, have heard similar concerns, but the majority of public feedback so far has been positive.

      They remain optimistic about the potential deal, hoping the community will not only benefit from property taxes from the for-profit agency, but also may see an economic boost.

      Just a reminder: this deal still is in the early stages. Now that an agreement has been reached, the transaction will be subject to various government approvals, including a thorough review process by the Michigan Attorney General.