Ardent Health Services, Nashville, wants to dismantle three-hospital Carraway Methodist Health System, Birmingham, Ala., the moment it closes on the purchase of the system.
Ardent spokesman Michael Drescher confirmed that Province Healthcare Co., Brentwood, Tenn., has agreed to purchase the Carraway system's two rural hospitals-99-bed Carraway Burdick West Medical Center, Haleyville, Ala., and 56-bed Carraway Northwest Medical Center, Winfield, Ala. The disclosure came on the heels of Ardent's announcement earlier this month that it had signed a letter of intent in late December to acquire the Carraway system. Financial terms were not disclosed, but sources familiar with the bidding said Ardent agreed to pay at least $150 million.
Drescher was not certain if Province had signed a separate letter of intent, and he would not comment on whether the letter of intent would be signed with Carraway directly or with Ardent. An unsigned statement from Ardent said it, Carraway and Province intend "to close the transaction by the end of February as planned."
Province officials said they had no comment beyond a Jan. 15 news release that stated the company had signed three letters of intent to purchase facilities, without identifying the hospitals. Officials with two not-for-profit hospitals have announced deals with Province this month. Banner Health System, Phoenix, said Province has agreed to pay $38 million for Banner's 47-bed Los Alamos (N.M.) Medical Center. Officials with 152-bed Memorial Hospital of Martinsville and Henry County (Va.) said their hospital's board also has agreed to sell to Province. Terms were not released.
Birmingham observers said they expected the sale of the rural hospitals when Ardent first announced the deal (Jan. 14, p. 4). Whether Carraway officials were aware of Ardent's plans when the letter of intent was signed is uncertain, because Carraway officials have refused to comment.
If Province buys the Carraway hospitals from Ardent instead of directly from Carraway, it could negate the conditions Carraway officials demanded from Ardent as terms of the sale. Ardent agreed to hire all Carraway employees in similar positions while maintaining their seniority, compensation and benefits, and agreed to continue to use the Carraway name. Carraway's board did not require Ardent to agree to continue operating all three hospitals.
Meanwhile, the president of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, W. Ann Reynolds, has written a letter to Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor asking him to ensure that at least some proceeds from the sale of Carraway be set aside to maintain levels of indigent care and trauma services. The university operates 863-bed University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham.
Ardent has said no decisions have been made on whether to change the level of services offered at the Birmingham hospital.