The hospital chain parent of Bayfront Health, one of St. Petersburg's oldest healthcare providers, saw its stock drop nearly 50 percent Thursday after the company offered a disappointing preview of its upcoming earnings numbers.
Shares fell 49.65 percent by the close of Thursday's market, resulting in Community Health's market value shrinking in one day by more than half a billion dollars. The Tennessee-based company, one of the nation's largest hospital operators with 158 hospitals in 22 states, saw 12.4 percent fewer admissions in the most recent third quarter compared to the year-ago period.
Community Health also faces increasing pressure on pricing as more individuals switch to managed-care plans, which result in reduced cost burdens for ratepayers but lower reimbursements for hospitals.
The company's official quarterly earnings will be released Nov. 2.
The company's dire financial situation has been widely reported. Analysts expect the company eventually must be broken up into pieces small enough for smaller hospital companies to buy what they want.
"Community Health Systems shares face a clearly challenging situation," warned Credit Suisse analyst Scott Fidel.
Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg is the flagship of seven area hospitals that all carry the Bayfront Health brand. Those hospitals are in smaller cities that range from Brooksville and Dade City to the north of Tampa Bay to Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte to the south.
In 2013, an independent Bayfront sold itself in 2013 to the Health Management Associates hospital chain in Naples, thinking it would be more secure as part of a larger corporation. But Health Management was already struggling, and the larger Community Health Systems bought the Naples firm in the same year.
Now Community Health is in increasing financial trouble. And Bayfront Health once again finds it is along on a bumpy search for yet another new owner.