University of Toledo administrators will seek requests for proposals to purchase, lease, or manage the UT Medical Center, the university announced Monday.
The UT Board of Trustees had announced in February that it was “considering all options” for the college’s medical center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital — including selling it — and cited steep financial losses.
On Monday, Rick Swaine, UTMC’s current chief financial officer and incoming chief executive officer, said the hospital’s losses through February were about $14.8 million.
Matt Schroeder, UT’s chief financial officer, then said the university would seek requests for proposals for the potential sale or other transaction of the hospital. That RFP should be posted this week, according to a university statement.
“We are undertaking this process to be responsive to the community’s concerns about access to healthcare and the University’s economic realities. We remain challenged as a small, independent hospital,” President Sharon Gaber said in a statement. “We hope that a solution emerges that addresses both of these concerns.”
The hospital’s losses are being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which is also straining the university’s budget as a whole. The pandemic has already taken a $13.1 million bite out of University of Toledo’s finances and many more losses are expected in the coming months, Mr. Schroeder said during a committee meeting Monday.
The figure was reported as a running cumulative from refunds for housing and dining, lost revenue from spring events, expected loss for summer fee enrollment and other sources of income.
“The total is $13.1 million so far and that is expected to increase,” Mr. Schroeder said. “We will be dealing with the pandemic for some time.”
Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, one of the leaders of the Save UTMC Citizens Group, said he and others affiliated with it “will have a comment or three” about the situation on Tuesday.
He said they were taken aback by the news, but declined to say much other than his group is planning a news conference.
The group, which has held several meetings rallying support for the university medical center, has called upon UT leaders to be transparent about the facility’s future in the past.
Mr. Finkbeiner said in February that UT leaders were “running for cover,” and demanded transparency.
Ironically, the board’s Clinical Affairs Committee heard a presentation Monday about how well UTMC has fared during the pandemic.
Dr. Michael Ellis, UT associate professor of medicine and an infectious disease specialist, said UTMC has “been proactive with this pandemic” and remains well-positioned to handle more coronavirus patients with good supplies of ventilators, rooms, staffing, and personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses.
“Our activity has been robust. Everyone has really stepped up and met this challenge head on,” Dr. Ellis said. “The morale is high.”
UT’s medical center has had eight of Lucas County’s 22 coronavirus-related deaths, he said.
“UTMC has made a solid contribution to Toledo, especially South Toledo,” Dr. Ellis said.
Also, at UT’s committee and board meetings:
■ Mr. Schroeder and Karen Bjorkman, UT provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, expressed concerns about fall enrollment.
Traditional campus tours during the spring to recruit high school seniors have been canceled, as have other activities such as concerts and sporting events. “We don’t know what impact this will have on fall enrollment yet,” Mr. Schroeder said.
■ Concerns were raised about a steep decline in online class attendance, especially in recent days.
According to Ms. Bjorkman, about 30 to 35 percent of the student body is not viewing online classes regularly enough. “For some students, this has been very difficult,” Ms. Bjorkman said of the switch to online-only classes that began about a month ago in response to the pandemic.
■ Dr. Sayed Amjad Hussain, the speaker for UT’s online-only College of Medicine and Life Sciences commencement on May 15, was approved for an honorary doctorate for that event. Dr. Hussain is a former UT trustee and an emeritus UT professor of both humanities and thoracic/cardiovascular surgery.
■ Concerns were raised about staffing. Layoffs appear inevitable, according to Mr. Schroeder, who said personnel accounts for 80 percent of UT’s operating budget. He said state education officials have warned UT and other universities to expect funding cuts of about 20 percent this year because of the coronavirus.
UT is currently under a hiring freeze.
■ Grants for students displaced from their on-campus jobs were announced. According the President Gaber, $90,000 has been raised from donations by 570 UT alumni to fund what she called “short-term, emergency grants” for students who held on-campus jobs.