Ensign Group Selling Doctors Express

Mission Viejo, Calif.-based Ensign Group (NASDAQ: ENSG  ) is selling its franchised Doctors Express urgent care subsidiary to privately held medical clinic operator American Family Care for an undisclosed sum, the company announced Monday.

Ensign is keeping hold of five urgent care clinics located in greater Seattle, however, and says it in fact plans to expand operations under its Immediate Clinic brand. Chief Executive Officer Christopher Christensen explained the Doctors Express divestiture as necessitated because of the need to spend "considerable investment and time ... to further develop the franchise model." This is time and investment that Ensign Group apparently does not want to commit.

Ensign specializes in skilled nursing, hospice, and rehab care. At the same time as it disposes of the franchised business, the company says it expects its retained and expanded "Immediate Clinic's physician-driven retail healthcare capabilities to enhance Ensign's relationships with hospital systems ... and be accretive to Ensign's existing businesses, while simultaneously diversifying Ensign's payor sources."

As for Doctors Express, that sale is expected to close on April 15.

Shares of Ensign Group responded positively to the news -- both of the company's Immediate Clinic expansion, and of its Doctors Express sale -- by sending Ensign Group shares up 1.2% to close the day at $32.34.


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