Two rural hospital operators, LifePoint Hospitals and Province Healthcare Co., reported higher third-quarter profits despite large increases in their provisions for bad debt, a problem that has plagued larger investor-owned hospital operators. LifePoint's bad-debt provisions rose to 10.6% of revenue, up from 6.9% in the year-ago quarter. Province reported a smaller rise, to 10.2% of revenue from 7.6% of revenue. They join Nashville-based HCA; Tenet Healthcare Corp., Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Triad Hospitals, Plano, Texas, in announcing higher provisions for bad debt. Rising levels of bad debt, primarily from uninsured patients, triggered charges against earnings for HCA in the second quarter and Tenet and Triad in the third quarter.
LifePoint, Brentwood, Tenn., said it earned $16.2 million, or 42 cents per share, for the third quarter, up 27.6% compared to $12.7 million, or 33 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue climbed 25%, to $227.3 million. Same-hospital equivalent admissions rose 1.4% for the quarter, compared to a year ago. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, LifePoint earned $49.2 million, or $1.26 per share, compared to $23.9 million, or 62 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue was up 24%, to $669.8 million. LifePoint owns or operates 28 hospitals.
Province, Brentwood, said its profits were $9.8 million, or 20 cents per share, up 4.3% from 2002's third-quarter earnings of $9.4 million, or 19 cents per share. Revenue was up 6%, to $195.4 million for the quarter. Its same-hospital equivalent admissions rose 2.3% for the quarter. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, Province earned $29.3 million, or 60 cents per share, down 8.7% from profits of $32.1 million, or 64 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue was up 12%, to $585.6 million. Province owns or operates 20 hospitals. -- by Vince Galloro