Baptist Health closes on deal to acquire Sparks Health System

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 2,165 views 

Little Rock-based Baptist Health has closed on the acquisition of Sparks Health System operations in Fort Smith, Van Buren and clinics in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. The move to acquire Sparks was first announced July 18.

Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith is a 492-bed acute-care facility and will now be called Baptist Health-Fort Smith. Sparks Regional Medical Center in Van Buren is a 103-bed acute-care facility and will bear the name Baptist Health-Van Buren. These two medical centers will increase the total number of hospitals to 11 within the Baptist Health system. A grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration is planned for the Fort Smith and Van Buren hospitals on Nov. 13.

“This is an energizing and exciting day,” Troy Wells, president and CEO of Baptist Health, said in a statement. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm around Baptist Health aligning with the outstanding reputation of this team of dedicated physicians and caregivers. We hope to compliment the quality of care that the River Valley has come to expect.”

The move comes as former Sparks parent company Community Health Systems is shedding assets to reduce its highly leveraged debt level. The nation’s second largest hospital operator recently hired Lazard to help it address $4.8 billion in debt set to mature in 2019 and 2020. The company’s long-term debt is around $13 billion, significant for a company that posted a $2.459 billion loss in 2017.

As of July, Sparks hospitals and clinics in Fort Smith and Van Buren employ 1,574 employees and about 500 contracted staff and physicians. In August, though, the Sparks network in the Fort Smith metro area will have 95 employed providers, which includes physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses.

In 2017, Sparks Clinic saw just short of 200,000 patients in the clinics, and had an estimated 55,000 emergency room visits in Fort Smith and 22,000 emergency room visits in Van Buren. There are 48 Sparks locations in the Fort Smith metro.

Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates acquired Sparks in a $138-million deal that closed Nov. 30, 2009. Then, in a deal that closed in early 2014, Sparks was part of the sale of HMA to CHS, a company whose portfolio of hospitals was then nearly double the size of HMA’s portfolio. The $7.6 billion deal closed in early 2014.

The sale will reduce property tax revenue for schools and local governments in Sebastian County. According to information provided to Talk Business & Politics by Sebastian County Assessor Zach Johnson, property tax payments in 2017 tied to Sparks total $1.138 million. The Fort Smith Public Schools received $791,124 from the 2017 property tax payments, the Sebastian County general fund received $108,384, and the City of Fort Smith general fund collected $108,373.