- Hospital operator HCA reported widespread volume growth during the fourth quarter of 2019, including a nearly 7% jump in ER visits compared to the fourth quarter of 2018. The Nashville-based firm's same-store admissions grew nearly 5%.
- Fourth quarter revenue increased 10% to $13.5 billion, beating Wall Street expectations, which sent shares climbing by more than 3% on Tuesday.
- CEO Sam Hazen told investors the chain saw volume growth across most of its service categories and in most markets across the country.
The nation's largest hospital operator, with 184 facilities, sustained a track record of bucking sector challenges, marking its 23rd consecutive quarter of inpatient admissions growth.
"Across our networks we took care of more than 35 million patients in 2019, a record level of patient volumes," Hazen told investors during Tuesday's fourth quarter conference call.
Net income for the quarter remained relatively flat at $1.07 billion, compared to $1.06 billion the prior-year period.
For the full year of 2019, the company also reported broad same-store volume growth, including inpatient admissions (2.8%), inpatient surgeries (1.1%), outpatient surgeries (1.6%) and ER visits (2.8%).
Net income for the full year reached $3.5 billion compared to about $3.8 billion during the prior-year period.
Demand for HCA services will continue throughout this year, Hazen said. For the full year 2020, the company expects to generate revenue between $53.5 billion and $55.5 billion and adjusted EBITDA between $10.25 billion and $10.65 billion.
As the Trump administration moves forward with plans to force hospitals to reveal negotiated rates with payers, Hazen said it would be administratively difficult and complicated for hospitals. He doesn't believe it will help patients and argued it will create a lot of confusion.
Still, he added: "I don’t anticipate it creating any significant issue for us with contracting."
A major supplier of sterile gowns issued a massive recall this month, but HCA executives said it has had no impact on their operations.
Also, as the nation cautiously tracks the spread of the novel coronavirus that first emerged in China, HCA said similar diseases, such as SARS and MERS, have had no impact on its emergency rooms.
The company announced shareholders will receive a quarterly cash dividend of 43 cents per share on March 2. HCA also said it may spend up to $2 billion to repurchase shares after receiving board approval.