Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said it lowered its long-term rating to BBB-minus from BBB on Baxter County, Ark.'s hospital revenue bonds issued for Baxter County Regional Hospital Inc., doing business as Baxter Regional Medical Center.

The outlook is stable.

"The downgrade reflects our view of Baxter's weak operations over the past several years that have led to deterioration in balance sheet metrics to a level more in-line with the BBB-minus rating," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Robert Dobbins. "Furthermore, management issued previously unexpected new debt in September 2012 that contributed to weakening of debt-related metrics," added Dobbins.

The outlook remains stable, however, because the balance sheet is adequate to absorb some additional deterioration at the current rating given the relatively small losses that operations are generating. Also, patient utilization has stabilized over the past couple of years, and there are no plans for additional debt, according to management.

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