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Sebastian River sees hospital stronger after sale

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN (Week of January 16, 2014)

Sebastian River Medical Center is about to pose a greater competitive challenge to hospitals in the area, including Indian River Medical Center.

The new, more aggressive positioning should occur in the next few weeks when Sebastian becomes part of the Community Health Systems network, after SRMC’s parent company, Health Management Associates, is acquired by Community Health Systems, which owns 135 hospitals in 29 states.

“We will be in a stronger position to succeed in an ever-changing healthcare landscape," said Steven Salyer, Sebastian River’s CEO.

New owner Community Health Systems, Inc., based in Franklin, TN, is one of the largest publicly-traded hospital companies in the United States and runs acute care hospitals in non-urban and mid-sized markets throughout the country.

“We are pleased that HMA stockholders have seen the significant strategic value in combining with CHS. We ... expect to complete this transaction quickly,” said Wayne T. Smith, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Community Health Systems.

By the “strategic significant value” of the merger, Smith is referring to what Health Management board chairman Steve Shulman described as “greater local and regional market depth and an expanded physician footprint.”

“The growing pressures of government and commercial payors are driving healthcare providers to have a broader geographical reach to better serve patients, and the merger puts Sebastian in a stronger position,” added Health Management chief of marketing MaryAnn Hodge.

The plan for Community Health Systems to purchase the 71 hospitals in the Health Management network for $3.9 billion was announced in August but it wasn’t until last week that the deal became imminent. Along with Sebastian, CHS is also acquiring 22 more hospitals in Florida.

The sale to CHS is designed to help hospitals that “often suffer from a lack of capital and have difficulty recruiting physicians and retaining high levels of management expertise,” the company said.

Recently, Sebastian River Medical Center has purchased a number of physicians‘ practices and has attracted several prominent, independent physicians, who previously referred patients to Indian River Medical Center.

The merger, said Community’s CEO Smith, will further “advance the commitment ... to pursue clinical excellence and to deliver quality care for patients.”

Salyer concluded: “The merger will be very beneficial to Sebastian River Medical Center, our community, our physicians, our associates and, most importantly, our patients.”