Union Hospital To Seek Affiliation With Larger Healthcare System

The Union Hospital Board of Trustees has begun a process that it hopes will lead to an affiliation of the hospital with a larger healthcare system by the start of 2018.

In setting the hospital on this course, Robert Horn, chairman of the Union Hospital Board of Trustees, today (Sept. 28) said the Board has engaged Ponder & Co. to advise them in seeking parties who are interested in an affiliation that will ensure that the Dover hospital continues to fulfill its mission to provide high-quality healthcare services to the residents of the Tuscarawas Valley. Ponder & Co. is a nationally recognized expert in advising hospitals seeking potential affiliations.

“Independent, community hospitals in this region, around Ohio and in the nation are facing the same reality,” Horn said. “In order to fulfill our highest priority, which is high-quality healthcare for our patients, this hospital may need to become part of a larger health system that has the resources and scale of operations needed for a hospital to remain viable in today’s environment.”

Horn said the work has begun to identify criteria of a suitable partner and to hopefully complete the entire process by the end of next year.

“Like myself, our hospital Board members are in business here, we have families here and are life-long residents of the community served by Union Hospital,” Horn said. “Our long-term goal is to ensure the high quality of healthcare services offered here will continue for generations to come.”

Horn emphasized that Union Hospital, which has 1,110 staff members, is an attractive community hospital partner for a larger healthcare system.

“As we move forward with this process Union Hospital will be talking to a potential partner from a position of strength,” said Bruce James, Union Hospital president and CEO. “Our hospital facilities are mostly new or recently renovated and we have a beautiful campus and outlying office buildings. Our employees and medical staff are fully invested and engaged with the hospital and their patients.”

James said financial pressures have mounted in recent years as the hospital’s revenues have not increased enough to offset rising operating costs.

“This hospital’s moderate size doesn’t give us scale to compete in today’s market. The large healthcare systems have better buying power when it comes to supplies and medications.” he said.

For years James said the hospital has been controlling expenses where it could without affecting patient care services. To help reduce the gap between revenue and expenses this year James said the hospital has eliminated 20 full-time jobs as part of a $3-million budget reduction.

“Continuing this process of employee cutbacks in the future, however, could mean a reduction in the range of patient care services provided by the hospital,” James said.

“Data has shown that Union Hospital is one of the most efficiently operated and lowest cost hospitals in the state, offering a good financial value to patients and employers,” he said. “We view this move to seek a partner as an opportunity to help us maintain and continue to improve the hospital facilities and services we’ve worked to build.

“Becoming part of a larger healthcare system has the potential to not only help us continue current services, and attract and retain physicians, but even expand in specialty areas. We will ask our physician leadership to help define needs in considering a new partner and make a good healthcare system better.”

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