Sandy’s damage to CHS hospitals minimal

Smith: Changes to population base a greater concern

More than 13 percent of Community Health Systems’ hospitals are located in the Northeast, where wind and rain from superstorm Sandy has wreaked billions of dollars of damages in recent days. But executives at the Franklin-based company aren’t worried.

“We have about 23 hospitals in the area and, other than a couple of power outages, we’ve had minimal damage,” said Wayne Smith, chairman and CEO of CHS, on his team's third-quarter earnings conference call with analysts and investors.

Analysts peppered Smith and CFO Larry Cash with questions about the company’s latest financial happenings and specifically the potentially negative fourth-quarter impact of the storm. Cash said they “don’t expect anything bad” to happen to their financials as a result of the storm. Smith and Cash’s only financial concern is that the storm might displace — for a short time or a number of weeks — a number of people living near CHS' hospitals.

“We could have a slight reduction (revenues) depending on what happens to populations in the area but we don’t expect any,” Smith said.

Dealing with potential hits to the bottom line from unpredictable storms isn’t exactly new to Smith and Cash. August’s Hurricane Isaac gave them ample opportunity to properly prepare for Sandy.

“We’ll keep good records just like we did then,” Cash said.

Investors don't appear too worried about Sandy's effects or the lower earnings guidance Smith and Cash gave them. At about 1:45 p.m, shares of CHS (Ticker: CYH) were trading up 1.7 percent at $27.24. Year to date, they've risen about 55 percent.