Sparks and Triad Discontinue Joint Venture Plans

Sparks Health System in Fort Smith said late Tuesday that its plans for a joint venture with Triad Hospitals Inc. of Plano, Texas, are off.

Sparks first announced the venture, which would have formed a new corporate entity with Triad, on Oct. 28, 2003. The new company would have managed the existing Sparks Regional Medical Center and built a $139 million, 260-room hospital in Fort Smith. Sparks would have become the largest affiliate of Triad, which operates nine Arkansas hospitals.

The deal was supposed to have been finalized in March. Delays pushed back the closing date to October, then November.

Tom Webb, chairman of the Sparks Health System board of trustees, said the decision was based on "business factors and timing."

"We could not have asked for a better partner than Triad," Webb said in a released statement. "They have shown a true willingness to work through many of the issues we have faced during the process of developing this venture, and disappointment has been expressed on both sides."

Some of the issues Webb cited were certain obligations that Sparks was to have resolved to close the deal, mainly its ability to pay off tax-exempt bonds.

"This process is greatly affected by timing and market forces such as interest rates," Webb said. "These factors greatly affected the deal and made it unworkable."

Webb emphasized Sparks' success in the last year.

"We had a turnaround of nearly $47 million to the good this year, our patient census is up markedly form last year, and we have had our share of problems, but as I have said many times during the past year, we are a much stronger organization now than we were a year ago," Webb said.

Webb said the Sparks Health System board will immediately begin evaluating its options for new and improved facilities.