Private not-for-profit hospitals in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina once again are taking a stab at consolidating their acute-care operations.
Late last week Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier Hospital in Charleston, S.C.; Charleston-based Roper CareAlliance; and Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolinas HealthCare system signed a memorandum of understanding to form a new company.
The partners said the new company will oversee 165-bed Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier Hospital, 400-bed Roper Hospital, 104-bed Roper Hospital North and related medical assets. Carolinas HealthCare, which has a management contract with Roper, will manage the new system and have a financial stake in it.
The deal would eliminate competition between Charleston's private not-for-profit hospitals, consolidating 42% of the city's nonfederal acute-care beds.
It's the second go-around for Bon Secours-St. Francis and Roper.
Several years ago they formed a joint development company called Lowcountry Health System to battle Nashville-based Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., which entered the Charleston market in 1994 through its merger with Hospital Corporation of America.
In 1995, Lowcountry lost its fight with Columbia over a bid to lease the three hospitals owned by Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. A year later, Bon Secours and Roper dissolved Lowcountry.
But they may have another shot at the MUSC facilities with Carolinas as its new business partner.
Because of Columbia's legal problems, MUSC officials said they are reconsidering their pending lease agreement with the company.
Separately, South Carolina Administrative Law Judge John D. Geathers late last week threw out a lawsuit aimed at blocking the mergerlike partnership between 553-bed Richland Memorial Hospital and 375-bed Baptist Medical Center, the two largest hospitals in Columbia, S.C.
The judge ruled the plaintiffs, two Richland County residents, had no standing to challenge the hospitals' certificate of public advantage allowing them to affiliate.
The COPA extends state antitrust immunity to the hosptials in exchange for certain limits on their business activities.