Top officials at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital and Health Center in Lewiston said their planned affiliation with the Catholic Health System makes sense because the organizations share the same values and mission.
Administrators with the 175-bed Lewiston community hospital and Catholic Health say the arrangement will boost Mount St. Mary’s by offering access to the larger system’s administrative and corporate services, as well as its specialty medical services.
The affiliation wasn’t driven by financial concerns and isn’t expected to result in layoffs at Mount St. Mary’s, which has about 700 workers, though it will allow for improved efficiencies, officials said.
“Culture really does matter when you try to put together organizations. And with Catholic Health we have a common heritage, we have a very similar mission and vision and values and way of operating,” Judith A. Maness, president and CEO of Mount St. Mary’s, said in a conference call with reporters.
The move, which was announced Tuesday and could take effect by spring 2015, is not a surprise.
Nationwide, smaller hospitals have been turning to larger health systems for assistance to keep up with changes in the health care business, remain financially robust and preserve a full range of services in their communities.
Such affiliations have become a necessity with the increasing cost and complexity of care, as well as the growing pressure to coordinate patient care, adopt electronic medical records and accept payment based on quality.
In the most recent local example, United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia revealed in February its plans to merge with Rochester General Health System.
“All hospitals in this nation are under some amount of financial uncertainty, just as a result of the Affordable Care Act and the changing landscape of health reform and the economics,” said Joseph McDonald, Catholic Health’s president and CEO.
Mount St. Mary’s is now part of Ascension Health, the nation’s largest Catholic health system, and its Our Lady of Peace nursing home will remain part of Ascension’s senior services division. The nursing home, on the Mount St. Mary’s campus, has 250 beds and about 400 employees.
Mount St. Mary’s will retain a connection to Ascension because Catholic Health is itself a member of the larger national system. Catholic Health also is a member of CHE Trinity Health, another large Catholic hospital system, and the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
Mount St. Mary’s will join Catholic Health’s other affiliated hospitals: Mercy, Kenmore Mercy, Sisters of Charity and its St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga.
The combined system will have annual revenues of $1 billion. Mount St. Mary’s 2012 net income of $1.76 million on revenues of $89.25 million represented a decline from its 2011 income of $4.48 million and its $92.25 million in revenue that year, according to a financial report filed with the IRS.
“We already are a low-cost hospital. We believe the synergies we get by joining Catholic Health will lower our costs even more,” Maness said.
The Lewiston hospital in early 1998 announced its intention to merge with Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, but that plan fell apart the next year amid community concerns about which facility would stop providing valued services.
The hospital was considered as an original member of the Catholic Health System, which formed in 1998, but never formally joined.
Plans call for enhancing Mount St. Mary’s primary and outpatient services, expanding home- and community-based services, improving hospital operational performance and supporting physician recruitment, according to a statement.
The affiliation will require corporate and religious approvals, officials said. Once it has been approved, a Certificate of Need application will be filed with the state Health Department. The full process is expected to be completed next year.
The affiliation agreement will require blending Mount St. Mary’s employees, management structure and board of directors with those of the larger Catholic Health System.
Mount St. Mary’s unionized workforce is represented by various bargaining units of SEIU 1199, which also represents some Catholic Health employees, and Maness said she doesn’t believe labor will have a problem with the affiliation.
Maness, who earned $759,578 in 2012, said she has committed to McDonald and their respective boards that she will remain in her job at least through the transition period.
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