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Merger Decisions: One Hospital CEO’s Perspective

By Doug Danko, FACHE

Note: Guest blogger Doug Danko, FACHE, is President and CEO, Jameson Health System. As health systems around the state consider the viability of merging with other organizations, Mr. Danko provides perspective on Jameson’s search for a partner.

Independent practice. Boutique medical group. Large managed healthcare system. Every physician has to look at each of these options when determining the direction their individual practice of medicine will take and how their careers will unfold. As president of an independent health care system, these days I feel I am in a similar spot to a newly practicing physician.

Jameson Health System is a non-profit health care system that is located in and serves Lawrence County, Pa. With approximately 1,300 employees; 250 physicians and 20 facilities, Jameson delivers community healthcare on an expanding, regional landscape. And now we are in the process of identifying and selecting a long-term partner.

I, too, along with the Board of Directors, have had to look at what type of partner will be best for the community, its physicians, its staff and, most importantly, the patients we serve – and plan to serve for years to come. And it isn’t easy.

There are a lot of areas to look at in selecting a partner but one of our focuses is selecting a partner that has the resources and commitment to physician services and recruitment. Simply put: recruitment and ongoing support of physician development and resources is a critical aspect in the long-term success of any health care organization. This includes physician education, professional satisfaction, competitive compensation structure, access to medical research, and the ability to have practice sustainability.

If we don’t grow, we don’t flourish. Medicine is an ever-changing field. Everyday there are advances being made and I believe that our physicians should have access to the best, most up-to-date resources and research available to them. Better supported physicians means better supported patients.

I believe the only way the community can be properly served is by ensuring we have talented, skilled and devoted physicians who are given the resources and support necessary to not only allow them to do their jobs, but to allow them to grow and develop in their profession.

On Sept. 16, 2014, Jameson Health System and UPMC announced a signed letter of intent to merge. In February of 2015, the Public Protection Division of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office (OAG) communicated antitrust concerns as post-merger market share of Jameson and UPMC could result in competitive issues.

The OAG is preserving its responsibility to ensure that citizens of Lawrence County have continued access to affordable health care. On Aug. 26, 2015, Jameson announced it issued requests for proposals to a wide range of potential partners as requested by the Pennsylvania Attorney General.

We have a strong offer from UPMC, which focused on providing physicians a desirable environment to practice in. UPMC has reaffirmed its proposal to merge with Jameson and has agreed to extend its offer through Dec. 31, 2015. In that time, the Attorney General asked us to look for options for other potential partners, so those core needs have now become a key component for any other potential partner as well.

We want to make certain the community has the medical resources it needs – but we can’t do it alone. The bottom line is that the ability to staff services, build successful practices, and recruit top talent is the engine that drives a health care system like Jameson and we – and the community – need a partner committed to that process.

I want to assure Lawrence County and the Pennsylvania Medical Society that this is a core focus for Jameson as we move forward. We are not looking for just any partner, we are looking for a partner who understands that the success of Jameson is in the quality of its staff and the environment it works in.

Jameson’s Board, its advisors, and the Attorney General’s Office are evaluating the partnership agreements and will select a path forward. And you can bet physician support and recruitment will be a key component in the evaluation and ultimate selection process of our health system’s new partner.

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