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Rankin: Mary Washington Hospital 'not for sale'
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BY JIM HALL
A new version of the rumor seems to arrive with the change of seasons.
In summer, the word was, "Have you heard anything about Mary Washington being sold to Sentara?"
By fall, the story was slightly different: "I heard that Inova Hospital is in talks with Mary Washington to buy it."
Fred Rankin, president and chief executive at Mary Washington Healthcare, said he's heard similar stories off-and-on for more 20 years.
Then, as now, his reply is always the same: "We are not for sale."
At times like these, questions about Mary Washington's future are understandable, perhaps inevitable, Rankin said in a recent interview.
The company's financial performance has been disappointing. Net income dropped in 2011 and may drop again in 2012.
Healthcare reform casts an uncertain shadow.
And the company sails alone through these changes, while its neighbors seek shelter in corporate mergers.
Even so, Mary Washington was founded as a locally controlled, not-for-profit hospital more than 113 years year ago, Rankin said, and it wants to stay that way.
"We are not negotiating with anybody," he said. "We have no offers on the table from anybody. We have not asked for offers from anybody."
Rankin said he and the hospital's volunteer board of trustees periodically discuss the hospital's future and which corporate structure would be best. To date, he said, the board has decided that the best way to provide residents with stable and reliable health care is to remain independent.
"Someday it's possible that we will have other affiliations," he said. "However, our board believes in health care decisions being made locally."
In many other Virginia localities, local boards have ceded control in hopes of bringing better care to the community.
Since 2008, at least four neighboring hospitals have merged with bigger health systems. These include Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge, Prince William Hospital in Manassas, Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville and Culpeper Regional Hospital.
Rankin said that at a recent meeting of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, he met with executives from the state's last remaining independent hospitals. Seven hospitals were represented at the table.
"Everybody else is part of a larger company," he said.
Most of Virginia's hospitals are now part of large corporate chains. The "solo practitioners" that remain include:
Augusta Health, Fishersville
Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, Chesapeake
Community Memorial Healthcenter, South Hill
Fauquier Hospital, Warrenton
Mary Washington Healthcare, Fredericksburg. (Includes Mary Washington and Stafford hospitals)
Virginia Hospital Center, Arlington.
The consolidation of Virginia's hospitals began in the 1990s and seems to come in waves, said Katherine Webb, senior vice president for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association,
The latest wave began about four years ago and has continued through last month. The most recent mergers are:2008: The University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville buys 49 percent interest in Culpeper Regional Hospital. 2009: Sentara Healthcare of Norfolk buys Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge. 2009: Novant Health of North Carolina buys Prince William Hospital in Manassas. 2011: Sentara buys Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg. 2011: Sentara buys Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville. 2012: Sentara buys Hailfax Regional Health System in South Boston.