Friday, February 23, 2018
Health

HCA chain to buy three Tampa Bay hospitals

The nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, HCA, announced Thursday it is buying three Tampa Bay hospitals — Palms of Pasadena Hospital, Memorial Hospital of Tampa and Town & Country Hospital.

An HCA spokeswoman declined to share the purchase price for the hospitals, currently owned by IASIS Healthcare. Both HCA and IASIS are for-profits based in Tennessee. The deal should close by the year's end.

With the acquisitions, HCA will own 42 hospitals in Florida, including almost a dozen in Tampa Bay. It will pick up an additional 691 beds. Palms of Pasadena (307 beds) is located in south Pinellas County. Memorial Hospital (183 beds) is in south Tampa, and Town and Country (201 beds) is in northwest Hillsborough County.

The announcement comes as a wave of mergers and acquisitions reshapes the local hospital market. This year, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg was sold to Health Management Associates, a for-profit based in Naples.

The move expands HCA's presence, especially in Hillsborough, where it now operates two hospitals in the eastern suburbs. It already has three hospitals in St. Petersburg and one in Largo.

"This will certainly enhance our network in Hillsborough County and will provide us another critical access point in Pinellas County," said Peter Marmerstein, president of HCA's West Florida division.

Still, he did not expect HCA's market share to surpass BayCare Health System, the not-for-profit network that dominates Tampa Bay. HCA is also bidding for Citrus Memorial Hospital, a taxpayer-supported facility.

In recent years, HCA surprised many by opening a statewide network of trauma centers. It plans to create new residency training programs at several hospitals beginning next year.

Marmerstein said no major changes are planned at the three acquisitions. Still, rumors are flying that Palms of Pasadena could be converted to a specialty center, or even a nursing home, said Dr. David Mokotoff, a cardiologist with Bay Area Heart Center, a private practice that works at a half dozen Pinellas hospitals, including Palms of Pasadena.

He called the acquisition a "mixed blessing" for the hospital.

"Palms was definitely floundering, its reputation was suffering and a lot of younger physicians weren't going there," Mokotoff said. "I just don't think it was well managed."

Town & Country also has seen troubles recently. After three patients died last October, state officials temporarily barred the hospital from admitting new patients to its surgical units, declaring they weren't staffed with enough registered nurses.

Calls to an IASIS spokesperson late Thursday weren't returned.

Letitia Stein can be reached at [email protected]

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