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

Key Points
  • Disruption from Hurricane Florence could hurt hospital system earnings in the third quarter, analysts said.
  • 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.
  • Tenet Healthcare has the lowest overall exposure in the region, but many its facilities are along the coastline and so the storm could have an outsized impact.
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Some of the nation's largest hospital operators have large footprints in the states most heavily threatened by Hurricane Florence, and are bracing for potential disruption from the storm.

"We have several hospitals in North Carolina, South Carolina and surrounding states that may potentially be impacted by the storm. Each of these hospitals is operating under its disaster protocol and is in close contact with its Emergency Management Association and other state and local authorities," said Michelle Augusty, a spokeswoman for Lifepoint Health. "LifePoint Health's priority in preparing for Hurricane Florence's landfall is ensuring the safety of our patients, employees and communities."

Analysts say Lifepoint Health has the largest overall exposure to Florence, with 30 percent of its beds in North and South Carolina within the forecasted path of the storm, though none of those facilities are in the coastal areas that 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, noting that both have hospitals on the coasts. 

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 clients, 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.

Tenet, HCA and Community Health officials weren't immediately available to comment.