LifePoint, Bell Hospital deal finalized

ISHPEMING – Bell Hospital expects to make $5 million in capital investments and to contribute $4 million to support charitable activities in the local community after its board of directors finalized the hospital’s acquisition by Tennessee-based LifePoint Hospitals Monday.

The acquisition will give Bell “significant resources to expand its services, invest in infrastructure and enhance the health of the communities it serves,” according to a hospital press release.

“The Bell Hospital team is thrilled to finalize this acquisition and become part of LifePoint,” said Robert DellAngelo, chairman of the hospital board. “We look forward to working with LifePoint to find new ways to strengthen our hospital, enhance the care we provide in our community and improve the health and well-being of people throughout the Upper Peninsula.”

As part of the acquisition agreement, LifePoint will invest $5 million over the next 10 years to update the hospital’s technology infrastructure, install state-of-the-art equipment and make other upgrades to its facilities.

Additionally, the press release said, Bell will have support from LifePoint and access to the company’s resources in order to help recruit and retain physicians, enhance services and improve its operations.

After constructing the new Bell Hospital facility, which opened in September 2008, the hospital over the next two years was faced with declining revenues, increased costs, a roughly $3 million loss due to a bad interest rate swap and a substantial operating deficit.

The board, after considering a merger with Marquette General Hospital, began considering the potential of the hospital to be acquired. Bell entered forbearance in early 2012 on the $32 million in bonds it borrowed in 2007 for construction costs of the new hospital. With the help of an investment banking firm, the hospital began to solicit proposals from potential acquirers, eventually choosing LifePoint as the company whose vision for Bell’s future was most harmonious with that of the board.

As part of its agreement with LifePoint, Bell’s debts and financial liabilities have been effectively eliminated and an additional $4 million are expected to be available to the community through the Bell Hospital Foundation.

“We are excited to welcome Bell Hospital to LifePoint,” said LifePoint Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William F. Carpenter III. “Providing quality health care to patients is a top priority that Bell and LifePoint share. We look forward to becoming part of the Ishpeming community and working with the management team, physicians, staff and volunteers at Bell to explore ways to help the hospital grow and prosper.”

The transaction was reviewed and approved by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.