Health Central narrows pool of suitors to two

The board of Health Central, one of the last independent hospitals in central Florida, has narrowed its pool of potential partners down to two systems--Florida Hospital and Orlando Health--the Orlando Business Journal reports. The board rejected purchase offers from for-profit hospital corporations, and is scheduled to make a final decision by March.

Merger talks started in August after Health Central, based in Ocoee, Fla., announced that it was seeking a partner or sale, the Orlando Sentinel reports. In early November, four hospital corporations proposed either to buy the hospital outright, or to partner with the hospital in a merger.

Orlando Health proposed sinking at least $120 million in Health Central over the next five years, while Florida Hospital officials said it planned to invest at least $100 million over the same time period. According to the Sentinel, Florida Hospital plans to turn Health Central into a major hospital hub in West Orange, one of the few areas in central Florida where the system does not already have a presence. HMA (NYSE: HMA) wanted to buy Health Central for $80 million. HCA (NYSE: HCA) did not name any purchase price.

The 171-bed hospital is owned by the West Orange Healthcare District. It has an annual budget of $150 million and 1,600 employees. Health Central facilities include a long-term care and rehab site and an urgent care walk-in clinic.

Although Health Central is poised for growth, given the current and future conditions in the healthcare industry, affiliating with a larger healthcare system would help the hospital gain stronger negotiating positions for contracts and services, increase its economies of scale for operational efficiencies and strengthen its financial position, according to the hospital's website.

To learn more:
- here's Health Central's web link for more background on its search for a large healthcare system to affiliate with
- scroll down to see rival healthcare systems' video presentations
- read the Orlando Sentinel article
- here's the Orlando Business Journal article

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