Tenet ( THC) can't stop the pain. Continuing a three-year trend, the ailing hospital chain has reported yet another quarterly loss and admitted that without a government settlement, the bleeding could very well continue through 2006. The company has, once again, highlighted falling patient admissions and high bad-debt expense as its biggest problems. To be fair, Tenet did manage to narrow its fourth-quarter loss dramatically, to $286 million from a whopping $2.19 billion a year ago. But even excluding a slew of special items, the company's latest operating loss of 8 cents a share came in 2 cents worse than analysts had expected. Moreover, the company's 2006 guidance -- which assumes at least some growth in volumes -- calls for break-even results at best. The lower end of that guidance translates into a 21-cent loss, compared to the 1-cent loss that Wall Street has been forecasting. "The question I have already gotten this morning is whether the bulls are going to be excited that the top end of management's guidance is break-even," said CRT analyst Sheryl Skolnick, who has no rating on Tenet and no position in the stock. "But I see a company that, at best, is in limbo and, at worst, continues to deteriorate year after year. Forgive me if I don't get excited about that." Tenet fell 15 cents Thursday afternoon to $7.56. During the fourth quarter, Tenet's revenue declined by 4.3% to $2.3 billion. Excluding discounts for the uninsured -- along with the results of six hospitals damaged by Hurricane Katrina -- revenue climbed 3.3% to $2.5 billion, however. Analysts, on average, were looking for the company to generate revenue of $2.37 billion in the quarter. Strong managed-care pricing clearly helped the company again. Excluding discounts for the uninsured, the company posted healthy jumps in revenue per admission on both an inpatient and outpatient basis.