Hospitals defy dire financial predictions

Throughout the health reform debate, hospitals have highlighted the ongoing financial challenges they face, no surprise given how heavily even small changes in policy can affect their health. That being said, critics are jumping all over some facilities that seem to be spend-happy despite the AHA's complaints about the industry's condition.

One market where hospitals are under fire is Chicago, where some of the high-profile flagship facilities are enjoying relative prosperity. These hospitals that seem to have recovered their bearing post-recession are resuming their building programs and buying other facilities, the Chicago Tribune notes.

Rush University, for example, is proceeding with a $1 billion renovation of its campus on Chicago's West Side. Another area health system, Advocate Health Care, is spending millions on new facilities and acquiring hospitals. According to Moody's Investors Service, Advocate saw its unrestricted cash rise 30 percent to $2 billion over the first three quarters of '09.

And Northwestern Memorial Hospital has announced that it will buy a rival hospital in a Chicago suburb and later replace the facility; it also spent $1 billion recently to build two teaching facilities.

While all of these investments are typical for large facilities, critics there are suggesting that these hospitals wouldn't be spending this way if they were providing enough charity care and otherwise investing in the community. This comes in the wake of a major brouhaha over the University of Chicago's program diverting less-acute patients away from its ED.

To learn more about Chicago's hospital market:
- read this Chicago Tribune piece

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