Tenet Healthcare Corp., Dallas, said it nearly broke even for the first quarter, posting a net loss of $3 million, or 1 cent per share, compared with a loss of $122 million, or 26 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue fell 2.9% to $2.5 billion. Progress in Tenet's divestiture program, with 22 of 27 hospitals sold, helped, as the company trimmed its operating loss on discontinued operations to $38 million from $82 million in the year-ago quarter and its asset impairment charge to $7 million from $137 million. Tenet said patient volume stabilized somewhat compared with 2004 levels, with admissions down 1.2% from the year-ago quarter -- which included an extra day because of leap year -- but up 5.3% compared with 2004's fourth quarter. Outpatient visits fell 10.1% to nearly 1.4 million, but the company said half of the decline was attributable to the sale of home health agencies. Bad-debt expense declined to 11.3% of revenue, compared with 12.7% of revenue in the year-ago quarter, when adjusted for changes in billing policies. Tenet said about half of the improvement came from settlements of managed-care disputes but also said stronger employment in some markets had stopped the growth in its percentage of uninsured patients. Tenet owns or operates 69 core hospitals.
SunLink Health Systems, Atlanta, also reported earnings for the three months ended March 31, its fiscal third quarter. SunLink said it earned $2.4 million, or 32 cents per share, compared with profits of $329,000, or 5 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue was up 13% to $33.9 million. For the nine months, SunLink earned $3.4 million, or 45 cents per share, compared with a loss of $879,000, or 15 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue climbed 17.4% to $95.6 million. SunLink attributed its improved results to volume increases brought on by recruitment of 30 physicians at its seven rural hospitals. For the quarter, same-hospital equivalent admissions increased 5.9% and same-hospital surgeries rose 11.7%. For the nine months, equivalent admissions were up 4.6% and surgeries were up 24.7%. -- by Vince Galloro