The owners of St. Vincent Health System in Little Rock have signed a nonbinding letter of intent to acquire Mercy Hot Springs hospital and physician clinic, the two hospitals announced Monday.
Catholic Health Initiatives of Englewood, Colo., owns St. Vincent. Mercy Health of Chesterfield, Mo., the sixth-largest Catholic health-care system in the country, owns Mercy Hot Springs.
The two will negotiate the terms of the agreement and hope to complete the sale by Dec. 31, the hospitals said.
Mercy Health and Catholic Health Initiatives said last month that they were in discussions to consider a “transfer of assets and operations” of Mercy Hot Springs to St.Vincent.
If a deal is reached, Mercy Hot Springs would be operated as part of St. Vincent. St. Vincent has committed to continue existing physician relationships in Hot Springs, the announcement said. Medical staff privilege at Mercy Hot Springs should not be affected by the deal. St. Vincent also is committed to creating a regional physician network and growing the network throughout Arkansas, according to the announcement.
St. Vincent also plans to offer employment to each Mercy Hot Springs employee who is in good standing, subject to Catholic Health’s employment screening and verification process, Monday’s announcement said. St. Vincent also intends to retain the charity care and core health-care services provided by Mercy in Hot Springs, which will be overseen by a local board of community and physician leaders after the transaction.
“Ultimately, the [Mercy Health] board determined that the transfer of Mercy Hot Springs to [Catholic Health] has the best opportunity to ensure a strong, sustainable future for Catholic health care in Hot Springs,” said Lynn Britton, Mercy Health’s chief executive officer, in a prepared statement.
There are a few more steps before the process can be completed, said Barb Meyer, vice president for strategic communications for Mercy Health.
“Obviously, we have to get regulatory, legal and church approvals,” Meyer said in an interview.
Peter Banko, chief executive officer of St. Vincent, said in a prepared statement, “We believe this is the right path for ensuring the viability of world-class, cost-effective health services and continuing the ministry of Catholic health care in Hot Springs.”
Mercy Health earlier attempted to negotiate a deal to sell to Capella Healthcare, a for-profit company based in Tennessee and the owner of National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs, but that fell through this year after the Federal Trade Commission said it would oppose the deal on competition grounds.
The Diocese of Little Rock also opposed Mercy Hot Springs’ proposed sale to National Park. Bishop Anthony Taylor said he was concerned the for-profit chain might not honor the tradition of Mercy’s outreach to the poor and that Capella would not guarantee that it would not perform elective abortions beyond a fiveyear period. He and a Mercy Health official paid visits to the Vatican.
Taylor said last month that it has been his “prayer all along” that a Catholic health-care provider would remain an option in Hot Springs.
Business, Pages 23 on 10/15/2013
Print Headline: St. Vincent to buy Mercy Hot Springs