The HCA hospital chain this week won a bidding war for Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness, securing its fourth new hospital this year in an ambitious expansion of its already large footprint in the Tampa Bay region.
HCA beat out Tampa General Hospital for Citrus Memorial, one of the region's last independent hospitals. Citrus Memorial leaders voted Monday night to partner with HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, at a time of extensive consolidation in health care.
The next day, HCA announced it had closed on the purchase of three hospitals formerly owned by IASIS Healthcare — Palms of Pasadena Hospital in south Pinellas County and Hillsborough County's Memorial and Town & County hospitals.
The expansion coincides with the launch this week of insurance exchanges under Obamacare.
"As more and more people find themselves with insurance, we are going to see increased demand for services," said Peter Marmerstein, president of HCA's West Florida division. "Convenience is a key factor. The extent to which we can bring services with documented quality performance closest to where people reside really provides us with a strategic advantage."
Mergers can give hospitals bargaining power to drive down their own costs while better coordinating patient care. But they also raise concerns of higher costs for patients, because large systems have clout to extract higher rates from insurers.
HCA offered $140 million for the 198-bed Citrus Memorial, plus another $45 million in capital investments over five years. The hospital has struggled financially while infighting plagued its oversight boards.
Marmerstein said HCA plans to turn it around by bringing in services unavailable locally, such as robotic surgery. He also anticipates bolstering services such as inpatient behavioral health.
HCA will consider adding new residency programs at Citrus Memorial to train future doctors.
The three hospitals formerly owned by IASIS, another for-profit chain, add another 691 hospital beds to HCA's Tampa Bay presence. Terms were not released in that transaction.
HCA declined to speak in detail about plans for these hospitals, citing competitive pressures. It is undertaking emergency department improvements and some remodeling.
Marmerstein noted that the management team has been replaced at Town & Country, where quality concerns last year prompted the state to temporarily bar new patient admissions to its surgical units.
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