Just when you thought Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s hospital acquisition push was slowing down, the company late last month signed letters of intent to purchase four more hospitals.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based chain agreed to buy Bethany Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan; Southwest Hospital in Little Rock, Ark.; and the two-hospital Neponset Valley Health System in Norwood, Mass. Terms weren't disclosed.
Bethany is a 280-bed, not-for-profit, urban hospital founded in 1892. Southwest was founded in 1988 and has 125 beds. Its parent is not-for-profit St. Louis Little Rock Hospitals.
Neponset Valley, a not-for-profit network in southeastern Massachusetts, has several nonacute-care facilities in addition to its two hospitals: Norwood (Mass.) Hospital and Southwood Community Hospital in Norfolk. In that deal, Columbia agreed to maintain acute-care and emergency services and provide at least the current level of free care.
Columbia currently operates a two-campus hospital in suburban Boston and has another hospital acquisition pending in Providence, R.I..
In the Kansas City area, Columbia owns two large acute-care hospitals: Columbia Overland Park (Kan.) Regional Medical Center and Columbia Independence (Mo.) Regional Health Center. The company also owns some surgical centers and an interest in Research Psychiatric Center, Kansas City, Mo.
Bethany sent out a request-for-proposals last October. It set up three criteria against which any proposal would be measured: whether the deal would continue the hospital's mission in the community; whether it would maintain the existing level of charity care; and whether it would support employees and medical staff.
Sources outside Bethany said three organizations were invited to bid: Columbia; St. Luke's-Shawnee Mission Health System, based in Kansas City, Mo.; and Providence Medical Center, a large Catholic hospital in Kansas City, Kan., owned by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.
"The proposal received from Columbia was superior to the rest of them," said John Millard, 64, Bethany president. "Very importantly, they agreed to maintain a full-service hospital at our current location. Columbia will make a bona fide offer of employment to all our employees. All medical staff members would retain their privileges." And it will endow "a significant foundation" with the proceeds of the sale, Millard said.
With John Morrissey