Two more investor-owned chains, Community Health Systems and Province Healthcare Co., announced weak admissions figures for the first quarter, joining larger players HCA and Triad Hospitals. Community, Brentwood, Tenn., said admissions fell 0.4% at the 59 hospitals it has operated for at least 12 months, but the rural hospital operator said the mild flu season and worse-than-usual winter weather in its markets were to blame. Without those factors, the company said its same-hospital admissions would have grown 2.6%. Moreover, Community reported a 4.9% increase in same-hospital surgeries; in comparison, HCA said its surgery volume dropped but did not release specific figures. For the quarter, Community's profits rose 23% to $33.5 million, or 33 cents per share. Revenue was up 24%, to $659.3 million. Community owns or operates 70 hospitals.
Province said both profits and volumes were lower, as it projected in January, because of the "unusually large number of physicians" who left its hospitals in 2002. At the 18 hospitals Province has operated for 12 months or more, Province said inpatient admissions decreased 2.5%, although outpatient volume grew. Revenue at the 18 hospitals was down 1.9%. Surgery volume fell 0.4% for the quarter, but that was a marked improvement from the 8.6% drop Province reported for 2002's fourth quarter. Province said the physicians it recruited last year are generating more surgeries as they build their practices. The company's profits fell 16% to $9.9 million, or 20 cents per share, compared with $11.7 million, or 23 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Province owns or operates 20 hospitals. -- by Vince Galloro