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As Hurricane Florence approaches, these hospitals are in the storm's path

Bertha Coombs
Lifepoint Health has the largest potential exposure, with nearly 30 percent of its hospital beds in North and South Carolina within the forecasted path of the storm.

Some of the nation's largest hospital operators have large footprints in the states most heavily threatened by Hurricane Florence, and analysts say disruption from the massive storm could hurt third-quarter earnings.

Lifepoint Health has the largest potential exposure, with nearly 30 percent of its hospital beds in North and South Carolina within the forecasted path of the storm, though none of its facilities are in the coastal areas, which could take a direct hit.

"Community Health is next with 19 percent of acute beds in the storm's potential path, followed by HCA Healthcare with 9 percent," said Evercore ISI care analyst Michael Newshel in a research report to clients.

Tenet Healthcare has the lowest overall exposure in the region of the major operators, but with facilities in Charleston, Hilton Head, North Carolina, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, a large storm surge along the coastline could have an outsized impact.

"Three of Tenet Health Care's four hospitals are located within 25 miles of the coastline," said Credit Suisse analyst A.J. Rice in a note to client, while also noting that HCA's hospitals are also located close to the coast.

Still, if the current forecast of the storm's trajectory holds, Rice expects the impact to near-term earnings will be modest and likely short-lived barring extensive damage.

"Volume trends at some of the hospitals relatively farther from the coastline could benefit from a pick-up in volumes primarily driven by hospitals … redirecting/transferring patients or patients themselves visiting the alternative hospitals," said Rice.

Last year, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas, Florida and Louisiana were a blow to third-quarter earnings, ranging from a 6 percent reduction in cash flow for Tenet, to a 12 percent hit at Community Health.

"At this point the earnings risk from Florence appears significantly lower. We also note that some of any volume lost in the third quarter due to the storm could be shifted to the fourth quarter as elective procedures are delayed or rescheduled, as we also saw last year." said Newshel.

Hospital shares were mixed in Wednesday's session. Shares of Tenet Healthcare fell 2.6 percent, HCA and Lifepoint were flat on the day, while Community Health shares rose 2.2 percent.

None of the companies weren't immediately available for comment.