Symbion reports flat Q1

Volume drop offset by per-case revenue boost

Surgery center operator Symbion Inc. posted first-quarter profits from continuing operations of $4.9 million, up slightly from early 2012. Operating income rose 2 percent to $20.8 million.

Revenues at the Nashville-based company climbed 14 percent to $133 million, helped by the consolidation of three facilities. A big jump in revenue per case offsetting a 4.7 percent drop in the number of procedures performed, which was due in part to having two fewer business days in early 2012. The company also ran into patient volume issues similar to those a number of hospital management companies reported in the past month.

"We experienced volatility within the quarter which impacted our ability to adjust certain variable costs such as staffing at our facilities in proportion to the lower case volume and also experienced higher supply costs at our surgical hospitals due to an increase in higher acuity cases performed at these facilities," Symbion executives wrote in their quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

So far this year, Symbion sold its interest in two centers in Michigan and Pennsylvania, booking a gain of $1.7 million. In the case of the latter sale, Symbion set up an entity to provide management services to the surgery center. The company owns 48 percent of that venture.