CHICAGO - Credit quality is beginning to deteriorate across the not-for-profit health care sector as providers grapple with an array of financial pressures, said Standard & Poor's in a pair of reports on the sector released yesterday.

While the same pressures are hitting health care systems and stand-alone hospitals, systems are generally more capable of withstanding the problems, analysts said. Despite declines in operating margins and other key fiscal measures, many higher-rated systems continued to turn in strong performances last year and through the first half of 2008.

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