Fletcher Allen rating dips
* Fletcher Allen Health Care saw its bond rating slip last week as it received state approval to continue its controversial construction project, including some work not currently covered by state permits. The 510-bed hospital in Burlington, Vt., has certificates of need for about $228.4 million of work, but the project's cost will reach $356 million, officials said. The hospital is seeking state approval for the $128 million difference. Meanwhile, a nurses' union accused Fletcher Allen of attempting to stall contract negotiations with a turnaround plan. The hospital has asked for a federal mediator to help in negotiations with the union, which earlier this month filed a 30-day strike notice. Standard & Poor's lowered Fletcher Allen's rating to BBB from A-, citing unprofitable operations, concern about governance and management, ongoing state and federal investigations of the construction and the planned issuance of $85 million in debt early in 2004.
Replacement facility opens
* SunLink Health Systems, Atlanta, opened 35-bed Mountainside Medical Center this month as a replacement for a 40-bed hospital that had served the area since 1969. The new $17 million medical center in Jasper, Ga., began accepting patients in the northern Atlanta suburb, which is situated in the fourth-fastest growing county in the state.
System loses $18 million
* Catholic Healthcare Partners reported a net loss of $18.1 million in 2002, reduced from a net loss of $52.3 million in the previous year, according to financial results released on the Cincinnati system's Web site, www.health-partners.org. Revenue was $2.7 billion, up from $2.6 billion in the previous year. Its operating margin improved to 1.8%, compared with -0.6% in 2001.