SEBRING - Highlands County Regional Medical Center patients should expect to see no major changes at the medical facility if Tennessee-based Community's Health System's plans to buy Highlands Regional and 70 other hospitals is finalized, hospital officials said Wednesday.
Shareholders of Health Management Associates Inc., which owns Highlands Regional and the other 70 hospitals, will meet in Naples on Jan. 8 to vote on whether to approve the $7.6 billion sale, including taking over $3.7 billion in debt.
MaryAnn Hodge, director of media relations for Health Management, which has operated the hospital since 1985, said that if shareholders approve the acquisition, it will be pending some approvals by the federal government. She said corporate officials believe those approvals could be finalized within the first quarter of this year.
When asked if the sale would result in any layoffs, Hodge said, "None are anticipated whatsoever."
Three members of the hospital's board of trustees say they have no doubt that the sale will be good for Highlands Regional.
L.E. "Luke" Brooker, a trustee, said he has confidence the best interests of Highlands Regional were on the mind of hospital officials who favored accepting the purchase offer from Community Health Systems.
He said the hospital's administration does a good job of keeping its board of trustees informed of what is going on.
Thomas Lovett Sr., who is also a trustee, said people should keep in mind that the sale involves much more than just Highlands Regional.
Lovett said he believes the sale will be a good thing for residents of Highlands County and quality health care will continue.
Trustee Kevin Roberts said that the board favored the sale after hearing a presentation. He said Highlands County will benefit.
The HMA Board of Directors voted in November to recommend that HMA stockholders approve the sale. A press release said the Securities Exchange Commission completed its examination of the sale.
Community Health Systems, which is headquartered near Nashville, operates 136 hospitals in 29 states and those hospitals have 20,000 licensed patient beds, according to its website.
The website notes Community Health Systems has helped hospitals with a lack of capital and has assisted those institutions in recruiting physicians.
In a press release Wayne T. Smith, president and chief executive officer of Community Health Systems, said that the purchase will create a larger company better positioned to deal with health care reform.
"This compelling transaction provides a strategic opportunity to form a larger company with a diverse portfolio of hospitals that is well positioned to realize the benefits of health care reform and to address changing dynamics of the our industry," he said in the press release.
Hodge said there's been a trend of consolidation of hospital ownership.