Vermont approved an amended certificate-of-need application from Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, Vt., for a $364.2 million expansion project, but regulators will be watching the project closely. As part of the approval, the state Department of Banking, Insurance Securities and Health Care Administration placed 34 conditions on Fletcher Allen. Last month, the 529-bed hospital paid $1 million to state and federal authorities to settle allegations that former hospital officials had lied about the cost and scope of the project when it was initially approved in 2000 with a $173.4 million price tag. In return, authorities said they would not file criminal charges against Fletcher Allen. However, an investigation of the project, its cost overruns and the actions of former hospital executives is still ongoing. Under the CON approval, Fletcher Allen must not make changes or expand the project without approval from the department. The hospital also must file monthly financial reports about the project and attempt to recover damages and seek restitution from individuals who may have broken the law in connection to the project.
Tenn. surgery center OK'd
Tennessee regulators approved a certificate of need for a partnership of St. Thomas Health Services, United Surgical Partners International and physicians to build an ambulatory surgery center in Smyrna, Tenn., but an HCA-owned hospital may appeal. The state Health Services and Development Agency board voted 6-2 to approve the project. St. Thomas and United Surgical each would own a 35% stake in the $8.8 million center and the physician investors would own the remaining 30% interest, according to a summary of the CON application. St. Thomas is a five-hospital Roman Catholic system that is part of Ascension Health. United Surgical is an investor-owned chain of ambulatory surgery centers. The surgery center would be built across the street from HCA's StoneCrest Medical Center, set to open Nov. 30. StoneCrest Chief Executive Officer Neil Heatherly said the CON decision is premature, because area healthcare needs can't be determined until his facility opens.
Dallas hospital closes
Dallas Southwest Medical Center, a not-for-profit hospital, shut its doors. The hospital is licensed to operate 107 beds but ran a census of 20 to 25 patients before the closure, said MaryAnn Aelmans-Digman, a consultant who was hired to run its remaining operations. She said the hospital has lost money since it was acquired by a community foundation in 2000 from Nashville-based HCA, which also lost money on it. She said the losses accelerated this year, and the hospital was not certain to meet its next payroll. The hospital's board is looking for a capital partner to help reopen the hospital, she said.