Healthcare Business News

Conn. hospital seeks to join for-profit Ascension group

By Melanie Evans
Posted: January 17, 2013 - 6:00 pm ET

One of Connecticut's largest hospitals announced it has entered into talks to be the first hospital to join Ascension Health Care Network, a private-equity backed effort to launch a for-profit Catholic health system.

St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Hartford, signed an exclusive letter of intent to join Ascension Health Care Network, a joint venture between the private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners and Ascension Health Alliance, which includes the nation's largest Catholic health system.

The deal, if successful, would be the joint venture's first acquisition since its launch in early 2011 after two New Jersey deals fell apart last fall. It may also signal accelerated consolidation in Connecticut's hospital market.

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Leo Brideau, president and CEO of Ascension Health Care Network, said the size and complexity of St. Francis' operations give it the market clout the for-profit system is seeking, but would also position the joint venture for other deals in Connecticut's consolidating marketplace.

Vanguard Health Systems in November reached a deal to become a majority owner in the Waterbury (Conn.) Hospital and to acquire the Bristol (Conn.) Hospital and Health Care Group. In August, Backus Corp. agreed to join the Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare System.

Christopher Dadlez, president and CEO for the 569-bed St. Francis Hospital, said officials said the deal would provide greater access to capital for investments in strategies already underway to develop accountable care and population health management. That could include acquisitions, he said. St. Francis was among 106 organizations included in the latest accountable care contracts under Medicare.

The deal would include St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and other assets of St. Francis Care, including the Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital and Connecticut Joint Replacement Institute.

Terms of the letter of intent were not disclosed, and Brideau said there was no deadline for the deal to close. Officials must first reach a definitive agreement, and regulators must approve a final deal.

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