Universal Health Services ( UHS) has boosted its immunity to hospital sector pain.

Through a major acquisition, the company will further bolster its psychiatric operations and lessen its dependence on the more traditional -- and volatile -- acute-care hospital business. The company is paying $207 million in cash for 46 facilities ranging from residential treatment centers to therapeutic day schools, in order to achieve that diversity.

"The facilities we are acquiring provide an opportunity to expand our residential treatment facilities, which have been a solid performer," said Debra Osteen, president of the company's behavioral health division. "These facilities are very well run and an excellent addition to our portfolio."

Specifically, Universal is buying 21 residential treatment facilities, 21 therapeutic day schools and four detention centers from the privately held Keys Group. In a separate transaction, the company has also purchased four additional therapeutic boarding schools -- only one of which is currently open -- and an outdoor intervention program from a bankrupt operation in Texas.

Already, Universal stands out as the only publicly traded hospital chain with a major presence in the psychiatric business. Right now, in fact, only a third of the company's facilities focus on acute, rather than behavioral, care. Going forward, however, that difference will become even more pronounced, as the company emerges with a full 100 behavioral facilities under its control. Moreover, the company will be covering some new ground in the process.

"The acquisition enables us to enter a new business in nonpublic therapeutic day schools," Osteen explained. "We believe there is a need for this service and hope to expand the current operations and grow in other areas of the country."

Investors, long disappointed by Universal's acute-care business, have started banking on a cure. They pushed the company's stock up 2.3% to $47.22 in heavy trading Monday.

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