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Baylor to close its southwest Fort Worth hospital by May 4

The Baylor Health Care System will close its 71-bed hospital in southwest Fort Worth this spring and consolidate services at its larger hospital in Fort Worth's medical district, a Baylor official said Thursday.

Baylor Medical Center at Southwest Fort Worth was losing money and was admitting just five to 10 patients a day, which prompted the decision to shut it down, said Steve Newton, president for the western region of the Baylor Health Care System. The hospital, at 7100 Oakmont Blvd., will close its doors by May 4.

Baylor Southwest "has always been a small hospital," Newton said. "Our downtown campus is just 15 minutes away, and we can very easily absorb the clinical activity there. It just isn't viable to have so little activity so close by."

Officials will move as many of the hospital's 170 employees as possible within the Baylor network, Newton said. About 800 jobs are open at Baylor facilities.

The consolidation will allow the health system to better manage its resources and create the "right footprint," he said. It should also better position the system for changes coming with federal healthcare reform.

Baylor Southwest was one of two All Saints Health System hospitals acquired in 2002 by the Dallas-based nonprofit Baylor Health Care System, marking Baylor's entry into the Fort Worth market. Baylor All Saints Medical Center, at 1400 Eighth Ave., near downtown, has 525 beds.

An outpatient surgery center in southwest Fort Worth is consistently busy and will remain open, Newton said.

Baylor Southwest, formerly known as All Saints Cityview, had persistent financial problems when Baylor acquired it. The hospital has had low patient levels for years; obstetrical care was transferred to the downtown hospital about two years ago, Newton said.

"This was not an acute issue but rather a longer-term issue," he said.

The Baylor hospitals in Fort Worth reported a $3.6 million net loss for fiscal 2010, the most recent data available, according to a Medicare cost report. The hospitals near downtown and in southwest Fort Worth are both included in that data.

Baylor Southwest vies for patients in the affluent, growing area of the city with Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth, which expanded in 2006.

City Councilman W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman, who represents southwest Fort Worth, said he understands the reasoning behind the closure.

"Just keeping it open was costing more money than there were patients to take care of," he said.

Councilman Jungus Jordan said his district, which includes parts of south and southwest Fort Worth but not the hospital, will feel the closure's impact.

"Certainly I hate to see any business close, particularly in the southwest part of the city where we've seen a nice medical complex growing and expanding," Jordan said.

Mayor Betsy Price said she is always concerned about potential job losses but was assured that Baylor is working to keep reductions to a minimum. She said the closure shouldn't leave a large hole in the area's medical services because Texas Health Southwest is so close by.

The JPS Health Network could take some of the displaced workers. The public hospital district is supplying a list of open positions and will work with Baylor to hold an employment fair, said Robert Earley, JPS' CEO.

"We're happy to try and help, and we're happy to try and keep jobs in Tarrant County," Earley said. "In this case, you're talking about experienced people who have been working in a great healthcare system."

Zimmerman said another issue will be what happens to the building. The hospital was built in 1986 and was valued at $28 million in 2011, according to the Tarrant Appraisal District.

Baylor officials are considering their options, Newton said.

In October 2004, the Osteopathic Medical Center of Texas, a 58-year-old Fort Worth institution that lost money for several years, shut down. The closure displaced more than 1,000 employees. The hospital was eventually torn down to make way for an expansion of the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

Staff writer Bill Hanna contributed to this report.

Alex Branch, 817 -390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1

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