A benign flu season was the wrong prescription for


(HCA) - Get Report

, which Tuesday said first-quarter earnings would come up short.

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The hospital operator expects to earn 81 cents to 83 cents a share before items in the quarter, about a nickel short of estimates, citing a 9% decline in pulmonary and flu-related admissions and the closure of maternity wards at seven facilities.

On the bottom line, HCA expects to earn $465 million to $475 million, or 89 cents to 91 cents a share in the quarter, including gains of $42 million, or 8 cents a share, on facility sales, and "investigation-related costs" of $3 million.

Overall, same-facility admissions are expected to edge down by 0.4%.

HCA's shares were recently down $4.77, or 13%, to $31.30.