By promising to maintain separate full-service facilities for at least three years, Tenet Healthcare Corp. has cleared the final regulatory hurdle to buy two Massachusetts hospitals.
The state's Public Health Council last week unanimously approved the transfer of MetroWest Medical Center's license to Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Tenet, which had signed a definitive agreement to pay $75 million for an 80% stake in the medical center last November (Nov. 9, 1998, p. 36).
Tenet may complete the deal as early as this week, said Harry Anderson, Tenet's chief spokesman.
The purchase involves two hospitals: 281-bed Framingham (Mass.) Union Hospital and 194-bed Leonard Morse Hospital in neighboring Natick, Mass.
The two were separate community hospitals until the early 1990s, when they merged to become MetroWest. In 1996, when they were experiencing financial troubles, they were acquired by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. in what was the first sale of a Massachusetts hospital to a for-profit hospital company (April 8, 1996, p. 28).
Tenet agreed to several conditions that helped win approval from the state council, said Mark Leccese, director of public affairs for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Specifically, Tenet has agreed to extend Columbia's commitment to keep the emergency rooms and medical/surgical services at both hospitals open for three more years, until March 2002.
The company has also committed to spending a minimum of $16.1 million in routine capital expenditures and an additional $6 million to $8 million for special projects that could include expansions.
The acquisition will bring the number of hospitals Tenet owns in Massachusetts to three. It already owns Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester.
Tenet, which owns 129 hospitals in 17 states, announced earlier this month that it intends to sell about 20 facilities this year.