Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and Quorum Health Group last week agreed to a four-hospital swap that will give Columbia a larger network in the Atlanta market.
Columbia/HCA will exchange 135-bed Medical Center Enterprise in Enterprise, Ala., and 160-bed Abilene (Texas) Regional Medical Center for 168-bed Dunwoody Medical Center and 64-bed Metropolitan Hospital, both in Atlanta. The deal is expected to be a swap of equally valued assets, executives said.
The swap also fits Columbia/HCA's strategy as it boosts its urban network in a key Southern market. When the exchange is completed in May, Columbia/HCA will own eight hospitals in the Atlanta area. Columbia/HCA now has 9% of the beds in Atlanta, according to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond.
For the two hospitals being sold by Columbia/HCA, the deal will mean the fourth ownership name change in two years.
"We have a standing order with the printer," joked John Robertson, executive director of the Enterprise hospital. "I just make sure that our people are focused on the patients."
He said the timing was good because his hospital was about to convert its information system to Columbia/HCA's, and now he'll wait so it can change to the Quorum systems.
"Changes in our ownership don't affect how we care for each patient," added David Collins, president of Abilene Regional.
The Columbia/HCA hospitals are in smaller markets, which Quorum has targeted for expansion. These markets typically are in cities with populations of 50,000 to 400,000 and have hospitals with 100 to 400 beds. Enterprise's Coffee County has 43,000 residents.
Enterprise and Abilene Regional were formerly Humana hospitals. Then, when Humana spun off its hospitals into Galen Health Care in 1993, the facilities dropped "Humana" from their names.
When Columbia Hospital Corp. merged with Galen last fall, the hospitals came under the Columbia banner. After Columbia merged with Hospital Corporation of America in February, the hospitals became part of the Louisville, Ky.-based Columbia/HCA network.
Now, they'll move to Quorum.
"We're a little bit numbed by all this," added Mr. Robertson.
The Atlanta facilities have been through some changes as well. Both were part of a 10-hospital purchase last October by Nashville, Tenn.-based Quorum from Charter Medical Corp., Macon, Ga.
The deal is "very pro-competition in our eyes," said Sandra Person Burns, president and chief executive officer of the Atlanta Health Care Alliance, a business coalition of 150 businesses.
Columbia/HCA seems to be spreading itself throughout the market, she noted.
She characterized Atlanta as an "immature market for managed care," noting that managed care has about 14% penetration.