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HCA Closing Houston Hospital's Inpatient Operations

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 17, 2010

Declining admissions has prompted HCA's Spring Branch Medical Center in Houston to cease inpatient operations by May 1, with nearly 500 employees expected to lose their jobs or transfer.

Outpatient services, including radiation oncology, imaging, and emergency care will continue, the hospital chain announced this week.

"Spring Branch Medical Center has had declining inpatient utilization for several years, but the services we are retaining there are obviously still needed and can be sustained," said Maura Walsh, HCA Gulf Coast Division president, in a media release.

Walsh said inpatient admissions have declined in the past few years and this trend is not expected to change. The vast majority of area residents are going elsewhere for inpatient care. Despite capital improvements to make Spring Branch viable, Walsh said there have been significant operational losses over the last five years. The hospital, built in 1958, is licensed for 299 beds, but is staffed for 160 beds.

"Since there has been significant utilization of these outpatient services by the community, HCA Gulf Coast Division recognizes the importance of maintaining these critical services at the campus for the more than 25,000 patients we expect to continue to serve this year," Walsh said. "By preserving these services, it will enable us to continue to serve over 40% of all of our patients in their own community."

HCA said about 40 of the hospital's 538 employees will be retained when inpatient services are shuttered. Management will work closely with the laid-off employees to find jobs at other HCA-affiliated facilities or with other employers. Job fairs and career transition seminars will also be made available, Walsh said.

Walsh said HCA will also work with Spring Branch's medical staff to ensure continuity of care for patients, and will assist physicians who want to transfer to other HCA-affiliated hospitals.


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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