LifePoint Hospitals, Brentwood, Tenn., said volume losses of 15% in a half-dozen markets fueled a 6% decline in admissions for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007 that helped sink its profits by 20%. Bad-debt expense, as a percentage of net revenue, rose by 16%.
LifePoint reported profits of $30.6 million for the fourth quarter compared with profits of $38.4 million in the year-ago period. Revenue increased 4.7% to $658.4 million. For the year, profits fell even more sharply, by 30.2% to $102 million, compared with profits of $146.2 million in 2006. Revenue increased 9.7% to $2.63 billion.
The company did not disclose the markets involved in the 15% volume decline, but executives on a conference call with analysts said that hospital-specific factors accounted for much of it. A late-starting flu season and the shuttering of unprofitable service lines affected volume companywide. Some hospitals in Southern states also reported fewer seasonal residents, perhaps a sign of the slowing economy, executives said. The company also had more physicians leave its medical staffs than expected, cutting its net physician recruitment for the year to 38 physicians, said Chief Operating Officer Bill Gracey.
We are not sitting on the sidelines here, said Bill Carpenter, president and chief executive officer. We are very focused on the things that we think will address the challenges that face our industry as well as the challenges that face our hospitals. We intend to be proactive, not reactive. -- by Vince Galloro
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