Getting its ducks in line for the pending spinoff of some of its Texas hospitals, Columbia/HCA Health-care Corp. agreed late last week to swap a far-flung hospital for one closer to other facilities in its network.
Columbia, which operates 217-bed DeTar Hospital in Victoria, Texas, will take over operations of 156-bed Victoria Regional Medical Center, owned by King of Prussia, Pa.-based Universal Health Services. Columbia will then transfer the control of the two hospitals to its Triad Hospitals spinoff.
Victoria is about two hours southwest of Houston.
With the acquisition, expected to be completed in late April, Columbia will control 62% of the beds in Victoria and two of its three hospitals. Victoria's other hospital is Citizens Medical Center, a 231-bed county facility.
In addition, 161-bed Gulf Coast Medical Center, which also will be part of Columbia's Triad spinoff, is an hour's drive away in Wharton.
In exchange for Victoria Regional, Universal will take control of Columbia's 107-bed Doctors Hospital of Laredo (Texas).
The noncash swap requires state and federal regulatory approval.
Bruce Gilbert, UHS counsel, said the fast-growing border-town facility fit with Universal's strategy.
"We tend to be successful with hospitals in secondary markets where we can become the No. 1 player," he said.
Universal, which owns three other acute-care hospitals in Texas, plans to build a new facility to replace the 27-year-old Laredo hospital.
"There is substantial opportunity for them to work together," Jeff Prescott, a Columbia spokesman, said of the two Victoria hospitals.
"Victoria [Regional] has been a weak player for a long time, and this just makes sense," said David Brown, administrator of Citizens Medical.
In 1997, Victoria Regional posted a profit of $132,609 on net patient revenues of $29.6 million, according to HCIA, a Baltimore-based healthcare information company.
"This community really doesn't need three hospitals," Brown said.