River Parishes Hospital sale word this week

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 2004

By SUE ELLEN ROSS – Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – A letter of intent has been signed by LifePoint Hospitals to purchase River Parishes Hospital from Universal Health Services. The Brentwood, Tenn. company will be making their final decision on the acquisition this week, according to Robert Prehn, CEO of River Parishes Hospital and Health System.

“At this point, all we are talking about is if they want to buy the hospital, if they feel it would be a good hospital to own,” he said. “They looked at many factors.”

There are two phases to the purchasing procedure for the facility, he added. “We are currently in the first phase, we don’t know anything yet. The letter of intent spells out conditions of the sale and they have the right to withdraw.”

LifePoint Hospitals has declined comment until their ultimate intention is announced.

Discussions regarding the purchase began about three months ago, according to the CEO. Prior to the signing of the letter of intent, there were meetings with the potential buyer and River Parishes Hospital board members and administrators. A special trip for key members from LifePoint corporate staff to meet with the physicians was the final step before a decision would be made.

That trip took place a few weeks ago, and hospital workers were notified of the possible hospital sale at that time. This is the usual procedure during the last leg of the process, according to Prehn. “We didn’t want to get the employees upset,” he said of the decision to notify employees only a few ago.

If the deal were finalized, any type of change within (employee benefits, etc.) would be addressed in the second phase of the purchasing procedure, he added.

The CEO mentioned that the buy would be a positive thing for the hospital. He said that LifePoint is a respected company that is committed to helping the hospital grow and prosper.

He added that very little, if anything, will change for employees. “LifePoint has committed to maintain current salaries and staffing levels,” he said.

Regarding a name change for the facility, Prehn said he sees no need for it. “No one is talking about it.”

River Parishes Hospital Marketing Director Carrie Fisk said LifePoint is a community-focused company. “They want River Parishes Hospital to remain a community-focused hospital,” she said.

LifePoint Hospitals is a five-year-old company that owns 29 small, rural hospitals that accommodate approximately 100 beds each. River Parishes Hospital, which has been located in LaPlace for 22 years, has 106 beds.

The hospital was originally owned by Qualicare. After two years in operation, it was sold to Universal Health Services, which is the current owner.

If the final decision from LifePoint Hospitals is a go, the actual transaction will be effective June 30, 2004. Prehn said they would then possibly sit down and put together a (strategic) 3-5 year plan for the hospital.