Talk of Sale Overshadows Expansion at National Park Medical Center

The announcement of an approximately $40 million to $45 million investment came at a bad time for National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs.

Its big news was released Sept. 24, and the next day, Reuters reported that sources said the buyout firm GTCR LLC of Chicago was trying to sell Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tenn., which is the owner of National Park.

The article said GTCR hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to find a buyer and potential purchasers included Lifepoint Hospitals Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn., IASIS Healthcare Corp. of Franklin, Tenn., and Regional Care Inc. of Scottsbluff, Neb.

The potential sale of Capella raised questions about the future of the National Park expansion project, but it appears the work is moving forward.

“We’re not going to comment on rumors and there are plenty out there right now, as there have been over the last couple of years,” Beth Wright, a spokeswoman for Capella, said in a statement to Arkansas Business.

Capella CEO Dan Slipkovich said in a statement to Arkansas Business that Capella is “constantly evaluating opportunities — like all smart health care systems across the country — to strengthen our company and our hospitals for the coming years.”

Capella also owns Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Russellville.

Capella had been in talks to buy Mercy Health’s Hot Springs operation, but that potential transaction fell apart in June.

Also on the same day that National Park made its announcement, there was other news in the Hot Springs hospital industry: Mercy Health said that St. Vincent Health made a formal bid to acquire Mercy Health Hot Springs.

In a short statement, Mercy said it is in discussions “toward a letter of intent” with Catholic Health Initiatives, which owns St. Vincent.

Capella’s Slipkovich said in the statement that the future of health care will be “collaboration and innovation. … That’s what we’re doing wherever we serve — building the strongest possible regional networks for our communities to fulfill our primary focus: Delivering the highest quality of care and preparing for the changes of reform.”

Expansion Plans

The plans at National Park call for expanding its cardiology center, medical imaging, emergency services, outpatient services and women’s services, Jerry Mabry, the Arkansas market president for Capella, said in an email to Arkansas Business.

Detailed building plans aren’t ready to be made public, but excavation of the 9-acre expansion site next to the hospital is expected to begin within the next three months, the news release said.

A contractor for the project hasn’t been chosen yet. Some of the expansion jobs are expected to be completed by the end of the 2014. And other services will be phased in during the next two to three years, the news release said.

National Park said it does plan to add jobs as a result of the project, but it’s unclear at this point exactly how many, Mabry said in the news release.

The expansion project has been on Capella’s to-do list for a couple of years.

“Our vision has not changed,” Mabry said in the email. “We are continuing to pursue growth in the areas for which the Hot Springs region and residents show a need.”

He said the approximately $40 million to $45 million price tag for the work includes the cost of construction and equipment.

Founded in 1954, National Park had $84.9 million in net patient revenue and net income of $14.8 million for its fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2012. For its fiscal year that ended in 2011, National Park reported net income of $15.8 million.

“The expansion at National Park will help meet the needs of the Hot Springs region for many years, and has been needed for some time,” Slipkovich said. “We’re excited about moving forward.”