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Rankin: MWHis 'not for sale' page 2
Rankin: Mary Washington Hospital 'not for sale'

 Rankin
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Date published: 12/2/2012

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Katharine Webb, senior vice president for the VHHA, said last week that when she first started with the organization 30 years ago, she introduced herself to legislative committees in Richmond as a representative of an association of 110 Virginia hospitals.

"Now I say I represent 35 health systems," she said.

Virginia still has 100-plus acute-care hospitals, Webb said. It's just that many of them, especially the smaller ones, now stand under someone else's corporate umbrella.

"It's a really interesting time to be in health care," Webb said.

The driving force behind these consolidations is money, or as Webb describes it, "access to capital."

Hospitals need large sums of money to expand, renovate and modernize, she said. Their latest need is for funding for new electronic medical record systems, she said.

In Fredericksburg, Mary Washington has doubled in size in 20 years to serve the region's growing population. Recently it spent $158 million to build a hospital in Stafford County.

"The investments that are required in a modern health care system today are overwhelming," Rankin said.

Even so, Mary Washington generates enough income to pay its bills and invest in new technologies, Rankin said. And it remains an attractive property, one that continues to interest the state's largest health systems.

Rankin said he regularly "talks shop" with executives such as David Bernd and Howard Kern of Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, Knox Singleton at Inova Health System in Falls Church and Nancy Agee at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke.

They have consistently "respected our independence," Rankin said. None has ever submitted a bona fide purchase offer.

Yet his conversations with them often end with some variation of: "If you're ever interested in a merger, you know how to get ahold of us."

Staff librarian Craig Schulin contributed to this story.

Jim Hall: 540/374-5433
Email: jhall@freelancestar.com


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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, an industry trade group.

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.