Billy Joe Driver, the mayor of Clanton, Ala., said he doesn't know what fate lies in store for his local hospital, 45-bed Chilton Medical Center.
"We'd like to keep it open," he said. "I even had surgery out there myself, and I'm doing all I can to promote it."
Chilton is one of seven small hospitals that remain in limbo in NetCare Health System's portfolio after the Nashville-based privately held company struck deals last week to sell three of its facilities to Dallas-based Triad Hospitals. One of those hospitals will be turned over to Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates (HMA), a leading rural hospital company.
According to several sources who have been involved in the bidding process, NetCare has been trying since last fall to sell all of its hospitals; after failing to find buyers interested in the entire group, NetCare had divided its portfolio into two groups: its three larger hospitals--the ones that recently attracted buyers--and its seven smaller ones.
NetCare officials did not return requests for interviews, but a spokesman for the company said NetCare would make whatever decisions are in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. Its majority shareholder is Charterhouse Equity Partners, based in New York. HCA-The Healthcare Co. owns the remaining minority stake.
"At this point, NetCare is focused on the operations and the value of the remaining facilities," said Nicholas Owens, a NetCare spokesman. "Therefore, there has not been a decision made concerning the future of the company or the remaining facilities."
Buyers and potential buyers, however, said some of the facilities are suffering from a lack of attention and what they saw as NetCare's ambiguous financial position.
Burke Whitman, Triad's chief financial officer, said the hospitals Triad and HMA are buying are NetCare's best.
"All of these are the big contributors to NetCare," he said in a conference call last week with analysts. "These hospitals are well-positioned in their markets."
The hospitals Triad is buying are 110-bed Denton (Texas) Community Hospital and 122-bed Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, in Ronceverte, W.Va., and 132-bed Davis Medical Center, in Statesville, N.C., which in turn is being sold to HMA;. NetCare purchased Davis from HCA.
James Shelton, Triad's chairman and chief executive officer, said the first two need at least $4 million to $5 million in immediate capital improvements.
In the case of the Denton facility, the acquisition will bring Triad into direct competition with HCA, Triad's former parent. Shelton said he became interested in the NetCare hospital, which also at one time was under the HCA umbrella, partly because of his familiarity with the market and the region, which he managed before Triad became a separate company.
HMA already has three hospitals in North Carolina; 111-bed Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, in Mooresville, is about 30 miles south of Statesville.