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LifePoint sees ‘extraordinarily bright’ future in Providence acquisition

Chuck Crumbo
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Providence Hospital has built a reputation for being one of the top heart hospitals in the nation. It’s new owner, LifePoint Health, aims to build upon that reputation. (Photo/Provided)


Two days after LifePoint Health closed on its acquisition of Providence Hospitals, Bishop Robert Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston presided over a blessing of the hands.

During the ceremony at the hospital, the Catholic bishop prayed that the hands of staffers would be instruments of healing, continuing the good works that have been the hallmark of Providence health care system since its founding in 1938.

To Scott Campbell, market CEO of Providence, there’s little difference between the mission of the Columbia-based health care system operated by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine and the hospitals’ new owner Tennessee-based, which is a $5.2 billion for-profit company operating 72 health care facilities in 23 states.

“Although we are not a faith-based company, we have a strong mission orientation,” Campbell said. “LifePoint and Sisters of Charity are extraordinarily quality focused in terms of providing quality patient care and patient safety.”

By focusing on its mission “we’ll not only achieve the goals of LifePoint but most importantly we will honor the legacy of what has been the Sisters of Charity history of being highly regarded for patient care, quality of service, and very personable service,” Campbell said.

While the mission may be the same the new owner is considering making changes, including making an initial investment of $8.5 million to buy beds and radiology gear.

But that is just for starters. Managers are in the midst of studying the total capital needs of both the downtown and Northeast Columbia facilities, Campbell said.

Altogether the Providence system includes a 258-bed facility at Forest Drive and a 75-bed hospital at I-77 and Farrow Road. It also owns 13 physician practices, a network of rehabilitation centers, two sleep centers, a school of cardiac diagnostics, and is an accredited chest pain center. Providence employs about 1,750 people.

The new owners also are looking at augmenting services offered at the two campuses.

The Providence Orthopedic Hospital, located at Farrow Road and I-77, has a partnership with Midlands Orthopaedics and will continue to serve as a center of excellence for orthopedic services, said Phil Young, Northeast campus CEO.

Meanwhile, the downtown campus at 2435 Forest Drive, which includes the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute, will remain a center of excellence for cardiac care, Campbell said.

Providence has built a reputation for being one of the top heart hospitals in the nation, being ranked for the 18th consecutive time among the top U.S. hospitals that perform coronary bypass surgery, according to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

But there appears to be a need to offer general surgery services at the Northeast hospital, Young said.

Providence Northeast offers an emergency room staffed around the clock by emergency room certified physician. Last year, the Northeast emergency department saw 36,000 patients, Young said.

“There’s a big opportunity for us to well-serve that community,” Campbell said of Northeast Columbia area, “and so a patient who might present to the emergency room previously with certain medical conditions would be transferred here to this hospital (downtown). In the future we will be able to keep those patients at that hospital.”

Up until LifePoint’s acquisition, the Northeast hospital was not accepting admissions from the emergency room for general medical purposes. Managers and the medical staff are now studying what it will take to provide general surgery services at the Northeast. No date has been announced for when general surgery will be offered.

“As we look to build our system, our service lines, we’ll do it in a way that will coordinate services between both hospitals,” Young said. “We’ll do it in a multi-disciplinary approach. We want to be data-driven and not just assume something is needed.”

Young also noted that LifePoint’s financial strength, operational expertise and deep clinical and quality resources will be used to strengthen Providence and provide better health care to the region.

And LifePoint also has the resources to help recruit physicians and professional staff, Young said. “Columbia is a great destination for people seeking professional careers,” he said.

Until LifePoint’s acquisition, the future of Providence had been a source of speculation as it battled for market share and profitability in a competitive market that includes Palmetto Health, a four-hospital health care system, and Lexington Medical Center.

LifePoint, though, believes there’s much potential in the Columbia market.

Young noted that the Northeast campus is in position to serve 250,000 to 300,000 of the metro area’s 800,000-plus residents. He added the growth trend appears to be “funneling down I-77” toward the hospital’s location.

Meanwhile, Campbell said the Forest Drive campus will serve the city’s growing downtown population, fueled by an explosion in student housing and the millennial generation’s preference to live near the Central Business District where they have more entertainment choices and are closer to work.

“LifePoint’s analysis of Columbia is that it is a wonderfully strong community, with a strong economic base, a strong university, and strong industry,” Campbell said. “Columbia is a wonderful town for LifePoint and we see the future to be extraordinarily bright.

“We think the timing is excellent for LifePoint to be here.”

Published in March 14, 2016, printed issue of Columbia Regional Business Report

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.

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