After late-night Erlanger, Hutcheson discussions, still no agreement

photo People exit Erlanger at Hutcheson in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., in this file photo.

After meeting and talking late into Tuesday night, Erlanger hospital leaders said today that negotiations involving the leasing of Hutcheson hospital in Fort Oglethorpe are "continuing."

Hutcheson leaders had originally set a Tuesday deadline for Erlanger Health System to decide whether to enter into a leasing agreement with the North Georgia hospital.

But an agreement was not reached by the end of the day, with some phone calls going back and forth as late as 1:30 a.m. and into this morning, some leaders said.

A team from Erlanger has run the troubled Hutcheson hospital since 2011, and they say they've made its daily operations profitable.

But with some $56 million in debt, they say the only way they can make the hospital work long term is by getting the debt refinanced through a low-interest, 30-year bond backed by Catoosa, Walker and Dade counties.

County officials have said they'll issue the bond only if Erlanger or another hospital promises to cover the debt through a long-term lease.

County officials gave Erlanger a Tuesday deadline to issue a letter of intent to lease the hospital, which would be the first step toward hammering out a multi-page lease document.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.