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Archive for Thursday, April 22, 1999

COLUMBIA THERAPY UNIT BEING PURCHASED

April 22, 1999

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The ownership change is the latest move in Columbia's efforts to downsize its Lawrence businesses.

Columbia HCA/Healthcare Corp. is pulling the plug on another piece of its troubled Lawrence operations.

Mt. Oread Rehabilitation Services, a physical therapy center at 3510 Clinton Pkwy., will be taken over at the end of the month by the therapists who work there.

"They're looking to get out of town," Becky McClure, one of four therapists at the center, said of Columbia. "We thought, 'This is crazy, we do a pretty good business.' We felt like we should take advantage of this."

The center will cease operations as part of Columbia/HCA on April 30 and reopen May 1 as RehabOne, a private-practice physical and hand therapy clinic.

The deal was put together earlier this month after the therapists found out that Tennessee-based Columbia planned to close the center by the end of this month.

"We thought, 'Gosh, they can't just close us down. We'll take over ourselves,'" McClure said. Other therapists involved in the deal are Diane Bell, Diana Lisher and Jeremy Robbins. Laura Creager is office manager.

The center, which sees about 150 patients a week, ranks about third in size among Lawrence's seven physical therapy practices.

Apart from its name, nothing will change under new ownership. RehabOne will retain all patient records and treatment will continue uninterrupted.

The therapists will lease their office space and rent their equipment from Columbia. McClure said RehabOne would soon begin negotiations to purchase the equipment.

Terms were not disclosed.

Karen Flynn, an official with Columbia in Dallas, confirmed the deal was on track to close by May, but declined further comment.

Columbia's disposal of the physical therapy center is just the latest step in a steady downsizing of its Lawrence operations.

Last week, the company confirmed it was closing its outpatient surgery center this Friday. It blamed a lack of business at the center, which was about to face increased competition from another ambulatory surgery center being built near Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

LMH entered talks last year to acquire Columbia's Lawrence properties, but those talks faltered. Columbia also failed to attract other buyers.

The latest closings -- along with the shutdown a year ago of its diagnostic center -- will leave Columbia with three physicians groups to show for the years it has spent in Lawrence. And there's trouble there, too.

Late last year, two of the groups turned to an arbitrator for help in a dispute with Columbia over space they say they were promised when they signed on with the health-care giant.

McClure said Columbia's support of Mt. Oread Rehabilitation also had been lacking.

"We just felt like Columbia had mismanaged us," she said. "They kind of left us out here to die. They never did any advertising. I always felt like we were the best-kept secret in Lawrence."

-- Richard Brack's phone message number is 832-7194. His e-mail address is rbrack@ljworld.com.

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