By BLAKE FARMER
Since his arrival on campus in 2015, Meharry Medical College President James Hildreth has been attempting to persuade Metro Nashville to pay more for the use of its hospital building. And, assuming the Metro Council approves a deal reached with Mayor John Cooper, that roadblock will be removed.
The agreement’s outline, released late Friday, would require the city to pay an additional $6.3 million per year, with an annual increase of 2.5% through 2027. The lease for the 415,000-square-foot hospital expires at that time. Previously, the city only paid the underlying bonds, which totaled about $4 million per year. These bonds will be paid off the following year.
The agreement also resolves previous disputes between Metro and Meharry regarding parking and utility costs.
“As a result of this agreement, we’re actually releasing the city from all claims to those previously owed expenses,” Hildreth tells WPLN News.
The conflict stems from the forced marriage of Meharry’s struggling Hubbard Hospital and Nashville General, which needed a new home after its facility near downtown closed in the 1990s.
According to a statement from the mayor’s office, the $6.3 million figure comes from independent real estate evaluation experts. Property on Meharry’s North Nashville campus has grown significantly in value in recent years.
“Meharry and Nashville General are at the heart of our efforts to address health disparities in Nashville, and this new agreement sets the stage for that work to grow stronger in 2023,” the mayor mentioned in a written statement.
Cooper is making a reference to debates over the construction of a new General Hospital. The safety-net facility’s administrators, who work for the Hospital Authority rather than Meharry, have wished to relocate to a new location, perhaps in MetroCenter. On the campus of Meharry, the old hospital has been declared beyond repair.
Hospital leaders have stated that they still intend to be the primary teaching hospital for Meharry students and residents. However, the school has different ideas about where a new hospital should be built. “We’re all on board with building a new safety-net hospital, and for a variety of reasons, we believe it should be on our campus,” Hildreth says. “Now that that is behind us, we can have that conversation in earnest, which is a big part of this whole thing.”