The merger between Abilene Regional Medical Center and Hendrick Health System took a crucial step forward Monday.
Brad Holland, president and CEO of Hendrick, said in a statement to the Reporter-News that “we are pleased that our (Certificate of Public Advantage) application has been approved by the state and look forward to finalizing the proposed transactions in the coming weeks.”
Larry Smith, chairman of Hendrick’s board of trustees, said the state’s decision “supports our vision to enhance quality, expand access and excel in patient engagement well into the future.”
Legislation passed during the 86th session of the Texas Legislature to help hospitals in rural counties merge contained Taylor County in its umbrella.
Holland spoke in favor of the legislation, House Bill 3301, in April 2019, calling the then-pending bill a way to give hospitals “more flexibility in (their) abilities to meet the changing needs of healthcare.”
HB3301 allows some nonpublic (nongovernment-owned), general hospitals to apply for the certificate, allowing medical providers within certain counties to merge after a successful application to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The entities must “demonstrate a positive impact on the community through improved quality, efficiency and accessibility of healthcare services,” said state Rep. Drew Darby, of San Angelo, on April 3, 2019, in public testimony before the Public Heath Committee.
Abilene state Rep. Stan Lambert joined Darby in sponsoring the bill.
Abilene Regional’s parent company, Community Health Systems, initially announced April 27 the signing of an agreement to sell ARMC and Brownwood Regional Medical Center in Brownwood and their associated assets to subsidiaries of Hendrick Health System.
Community announced the sale of San Angelo Community Medical Center to Shannon Health System on April 20.
More: Texas legislature passed bill in 2019 making merger of Hendrick/Abilene Regional possible
Hendrick is a nonprofit hospital, while Abilene Regional operates for profit.
Hendrick’s hospital is a 540-bed facility that employs more than 3,600. It serves a 24-county area.
More: Hendrick Health System acquiring Abilene Regional, Brownwood Regional
Hendrick opened in Sept. 15, 1924, as West Texas Baptist Sanitarium. It recently expanded into south Abilene, building a medical plaza and an emergency care center.
The system also operates an outpatient surgery center and a medical center in Brownwood.
Abilene Regional is a 231-bed facility that opened as West Texas Medical Center on East Highway 80 in 1968.
It moved in 1984 to its present location in far south Abilene, west of Kirby Lake. It became known as Abilene Regional in 1993.
Brownwood Regional is a 188-bed facility.
Hendrick, as part of the agreement, will “work with the Brownwood County Hospital Authority to secure assignment of the long-term lease and operations of Brownwood Regional Medical Center,” according to an April 27 news story.
Not all in favor
In September, the Federal Trade Commission submitted a 70-page document opposing state approval of the proposed merger between Hendrick and ARMC.
The FTC told the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that its staff opposed the state issuing Certificates of Public Advantage to Hendrick as part of the state’s approval process of the merger.
“Staff of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, Bureau of Economics and Office of Policy Planning expressed concern that the proposed merger of Hendrick and Abilene Regional would lead to significantly less competition for healthcare services in Midwest Texas,” the FTC said in a news release Sept. 16.
The document also addressed the proposed merger in San Angelo.
More: FTC opposes state approval of Hendrick-Abilene Regional merger
More: Two hospitals in Abilene are better than one
Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for the Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
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