Community Health Systems to acquire bankrupt Natchez, Mississippi, hospital

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Community Health Systems subsidiaries have executed a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of 179-bed Natchez Regional Medical Center in Natchez, Mississippi, which voluntarily filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in March 2014.

Between reimbursement reductions, costly new government requirements and falling inpatient volumes nationally, the Franklin, Tennessee, based community hospital operator can afford to be choosy in which failing rural community hospitals it decides to pick up. Although bankrupt, Natchez Regional Medical Center has some attractive attributes, including possibly aligning well with Natchez Community Hospital, which Community Health Systems already operates. It also earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval™ for accreditation in April, despite the challenge posed by going through bankruptcy filing at the same time as it was being audited by the Joint Commission. All total Community has 12 other hospitals in Mississippi, and this 13th hospital would add to its regional market clout.

The bankruptcy court must approve a deal and an auction of Natchez Regional Medical Center will still be held, but commenting on the announcement, Wayne T. Smith, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Community Health Systems, Inc., was confident.

“We look forward to completing this potential acquisition and working with the medical staffs and employees of both hospitals in Natchez in a coordinated approach to providing quality care for local residents,” he stated in the press release.

There is a definite trend of rural hospitals closing as inpatient volumes shrink. A special report published Saturday by Al Jazeera America counted 14 such closures last year.