A buyer for Christus-Saint Joe’s

Christus-Saint Joseph’s Hospital has found a buyer.

Christus Health Gulf Coast and Health Care Partners of America signed the agreement Thursday, nine months after the 119-year-old Catholic hospital was put up for sale because Christus didn’t have the money to modernize its aging buildings. It pledged to find a buyer that would continue its historic mission as a comprehensive hospital that provides charity care.

“The offer we received from HPA meets all the criteria we established for our bidders when we started this process last summer,” said Pat Carrier, president of Christus. “They recognize and value the spirit and legacy of St. Joseph. This continuation of mission was a critical element in our selection of HPA as the winning bidder.”

Carrier said the deal should close on or before June 30. The final price has not been determined, and neither party would disclose the general range.

HPA, a for-profit, privately held company established in Charlotte in 2003, operates general acute-care hospitals in partnership with their physicians. Though it impressed health care experts by turning around Houston’s struggling Twelve Oaks Medical Center three years after buying it, HPA is not a major name in the industry.

When Christus announced St. Joseph would be put up for sale last June, industry analysts were skeptical. Questioning the validity of a downtown hospital faced with growing competition from the Texas Medical Center and a rising indigent population, some suggested converting it to a specialty care hospital instead. They emphasized that the lack of demand for a large acute-care hospital downtown was the reason it was put up for sale.

But HPA officials said the plan is not only to maintain the hospital’s current operations, but to expand them. Noting downtown’s residential population is projected to increase 300 percent in the next four years, they said they will invest in capital improvements to enhance the nearly 1.2 million-square-foot facility.

“We think this is a very intriguing business opportunity,” said Terry Linn, HPA’s chief development officer. “The Texas Medical Center is formidable competition, but it has issues — access, parking, turnover — that make it open to competition from a downtown hospital. And not many downtown hospitals have the facilities, services and accommodations that St. Joseph does.”

I’m glad to hear this. The situation sounded awfully bleak when St. Joe’s was put up for sale. I confess I’m a little uncertain how this will work out financially for HPA, and I’m a little surprised that Rob Mosbacher’s consortium idea went exactly nowhere (this editorial published three days after the original story is the last I heard of it). Be that as it may, I’m glad that the hospital where Olivia was born once again has a future.

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