Several long-term-care and subacute-care companies are trying to forge deals with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., although executives of the 192-hospital chain say they haven't reached any agreements yet.
Still, executives of Vencor, Beverly Enterprises and Transitional Hospitals Corp. have been talking with Columbia executives about a variety of joint ventures and referral arrangements, sources say.
"One percent of every dollar that flows through the industry goes through (Columbia)," said Earl Reed, vice president for finance and development at Vencor. He noted that many providers and vendors are looking for ways to work with Columbia, which operates the nation's largest hospital chain.
Mr. Reed said he has spoken to Columbia's top executives, Rick Scott and David Vandewater, several times about "working together to leverage the economies of patient care." The talks haven't included discussions of a merger or acquisition, he said.
However, he noted that Vencor would like to work with Columbia to establish subacute units it its hospitals, he said.
As the rumor mill continued to churn, USA Today last week reported that Columbia/HCA might purchase Fort Smith, Ark.-based Beverly, which operates 801 long-term-care facilities across the country. However, executives of both companies denied an acquisition is in the works.
"Talks (with Columbia) have been limited to doing pilot projects in select markets to see if any type of managed-care arrangement would make sense," said Scott Tabakin, a Beverly vice president and comptroller. "As for a merger, nothing has been discussed."
Much more likely is that Columbia would reach a variety of different pacts with providers, depending on the market. Columbia and Beverly appear to most heavily overlap in markets in Florida and Texas, two states that could prompt regional affiliation interest from both companies, he added.
Meanwhile, Transitional Hospital Corp. has spoken with Columbia about subcontracting its subacute services with the hospital chain in select markets, said THC President Rod Laughlin. However, no agreements have been reached.
"What we want to do is provide subacute services to a lot of hospi tals," Mr. Laughlin said. "We would like to be a subcon tractor for Colum bia, and if we could work that out, it would be great."
THC, a subsidiary of Laguna Hills, Calif.-based Community Psychiatric Centers, provides specialty care for medically complex patients who are discharged from hospital intensive-care units. Patients typically stay an average of 40 days in its hospitals. The Atlanta-based company primarily focuses its specialty care in urban markets, operating 10 hospitals in cities, including Houston, Indianapolis Las Vegas, Nev., Milwaukee and New Orleans.
In addition, while it may appear that long-term-care providers are competing for Columbia's business, several are actually working together.
Vencor, a Louisville, Ky.-based chain of 30 intensive-care hospitals, has recently started contracting to provide respiratory therapy services to 40 Beverly nursing facilities.
Vencor, which traditionally hasn't called itself a subacute-care provider, is expanding more into that business. Earlier this month, it bought Irvine, Calif.-based Candle Subacute Services, which operates 10 subacute-care units in hospitals. Eight more subacute units, all in California, are being developed, Mr. Reed said.
Mr. Reed said Vencor is talking with the top five nursing home chains about providing respiratory therapy services or opening subacute units in their nursing homes.