Brownsville hospital buyer identified

| Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012

An engineer-turned-businessman and philanthropist is behind the purchase of the former Brownsville General Hospital in Fayette County, according to real estate records.

Krishnan Suthanthrian is president of Best Medical International in Springfield, Va., and a string of related medical firms that purchased the site in late December for $980,000, records show.

Best Medical Center LLC is part of the newly created Best Fayette Medical Center, according to state corporation records. Both companies were formed on Dec. 29.

Suthanthrian was born in 1947 in southern India and studied engineering in Canada before founding Best Medical International in 1977, according to the company's website. The company and its various spinoffs manufacture medical equipment, market cancer and radiation therapies, and do research.

Suthanthrian also founded the Best Cure Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the company. The foundation provides medical care to underdeveloped countries.

Best officials did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Fayette County Commissioner Vincent Zapatosky said the Brownsvile region "needed a little boost," and hopes the borough will develop a "medical niche" for the county, leading to more health care development.

"It appears to be a project that is good for up to 150 employees when all is said and done," Zapatosky said. "The employment is a plus."

Best Fayette Medical Center is not expected to operate the former facility as an acute care hospital but rather a surgical or specialty medical center, he said.

People may wonder why Brownsville was chosen by an international firm, Zapatosky said.

"The bottom line is the facility was upgraded when it was Tri-County Hospital. There is acreage to expand. It's a beautiful facility. There's room for expansion and room for improvement," he said. "I hope people will look at Fayette County as a place where you can do business. That's one of the things we need to market."

Norma Ryan, the former mayor of Brownsville and a former hospital board member, said she was "ecstatic" when she heard about the purchase. Ryan worked with other officials to find someone to reopen the hospital since it closed.

"I'm excited about that," said Ryan. "Especially the fact that it may provide cancer treatment in the area. It's terribly exciting to me.

"What a need. Other people have talked about other health-related needs. I feel ecstatic. It's a great steppingstone to other health-related issues for the entire county," she added.

Brownsville officials have tried for years to market the site as a hospital after previous attempts failed. Parkvale Bank held title to the property after acquiring it in bankruptcy court when the former owners defaulted on a $1.4 million mortgage before selling it to Best.

The last attempt to sell the property fell through last year when Falck Properties of Bethel Park in Allegheny county offered $1.8 million for the site to open.

But the county commissioners refused to grant the company a zoning change that would have allowed Falck to use part of the property for student housing for nearby California University of Pennsylvania.

Brownsville General Hospital went bankrupt in 2006. It reopened under new owners in 2008 but closed again in 2009.

Since then, the former owner, Brownsville Property Corp., has been exploring ways to reopen the facility.

A group of physicians and investors reopened the facility as Tara Hospital. In 2008, another group took over and renamed it Brownsville Tri-County Hospital. In 2009, they surrendered the hospital's operating license to the state after the owners experienced financial and union problems.

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