Mercy Health, Catholic Health Initiatives Sign Letter of Intent for Mercy Hot Springs

Mercy Health, Catholic Health Initiatives Sign Letter of Intent for Mercy Hot Springs
St. Vincent, left, and Mercy Hot Springs.

Mercy Health of Chesterfield, Mo., and Catholic Health Initiatives on Friday signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell Mercy Hot Springs hospital and physician clinic to CHI and its affiliate, St. Vincent Health System in Little Rock.

The companies hope to have the deal completed by the end of the year. The transaction will require approvals from the Mercy board of directors, St. Vincent's board of directors, the CHI board of stewardship trustees as well as federal, state and church authorities.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Mercy and CHI recognize the extremely challenging health care environment in Arkansas and agree that enhancing the Catholic health ministry and strengthening access to health care is a key objective of the proposed transaction," Mercy officials said in a news release.

After the deal, Mercy Hot Springs would be operated part of St. Vincent's network.

St. Vincent "has committed to preserve existing physician relationships in the community and build new ones as they work to strengthen the ministry in Hot Springs," the news release said. "Medical staff privileges of the physicians at Mercy Hot Springs are not expected to be affected by the proposed transaction."

Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock supports the deal, Mercy said.

"He is hopeful that the outcome will yield a positive result for the residents of Hot Springs and the surrounding communities," the news release said.

Both Mercy and St. Vincent are private, Catholic-owned institutions. Arkansas Business reported in September that talks between Mercy and CHI were underway.

Mercy faced opposition when it announced last year that it planned to sell its Hot Springs operation to Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tenn., which operates National Park Medical Center across town. The parties scuttled the merger when the Federal Trade Commission said it didn't support it.

St. Vincent also had been exploring a deal to work with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, another proposal that was dropped this year. The two health systems, each with a major hospital in Little Rock, had begun exploring what was variously described as an affiliation or alliance in August 2012.