Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., Memphis, Tenn., and Ameris Health Systems, Nashville, signed a letter of intent for Ameris to buy out Baptist's lease of two hospitals from Mississippi County, Ark. In September, Baptist said it would close its 76-bed hospital in Osceola, Ark., by Dec. 1 and merge operations with its 168-bed hospital in nearby Blytheville. Jim Ainsworth, the system's vice president and regional market leader, declined to disclose the hospitals' earnings or losses in recent years. Joe Herring, president and chief operating officer at privately owned Ameris, said he expects to use the company's experience with smaller, low-volume hospitals to turn both facilities around, noting that a possible new steel mill in the Osceola area would help. Herring said he expects to keep both hospitals running. Negotiations include Ameris potentially buying 70 acres slated for a possible replacement hospital, which Ameris most likely would sell, Herring said. Mississippi County Quorum Court must approve the deal. -- by Paul Barr
Baptist to shed lease for two Ark. hospitals
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