The boards of Chester River Health and Shore Health have announced the merger of the two health systems. The merger will maximize health care accessibility for Mid-shore residents, while maintaining the financial strength of local healthcare in the face of rapid changes in health care delivery and reimbursement, ensuring a sustainable path to the future of the Mid-Shore’s health care. Both systems are members of the University of Maryland Medical System, which has approved the merger.
“The Boards’ vote for the merger was unanimous and we are very excited to combine our health systems,” commented the Board chairs, Wayne Gardner of Chester River Health and John Dillon of Shore Health, in a joint statement. “Together, we can reach new levels of quality care and our communities deserve it.”
Dillon commented, “We have prepared our health systems in the best possible way to meet the challenges of a health care environment that is rapidly changing due to healthcare reform. This enables us to provide seamless and efficient care across our region. We are confident that the thorough process we have pursued has led us to the right decisions.”
“Our boards have come together to build a sustainable health care system and that is really trailblazing here in Maryland,” remarked Gardner. “Our collaboration will improve care and outcomes for our patients while increasing access to quality healthcare services, programs and specialists to residents of the Mid-shore region.”
The unanimous votes taken by the two boards will result in the following:
• Effective July 1, 2013, Shore Health System and Chester River Health System will merge into a single entity, with a single board governance structure.
• Effective July 1, 2013, the health system’s executive management team will be unified. Ken Kozel, current CEO and president of Shore Health System, will serve as CEO and president of the unified system. Jim Ross, current CEO and president of Chester River Health, will continue to serve until the merger is complete.
• On a date yet to be determined, the health systems’ medical staffs will be unified.
• By January, 2014, the health system’s middle management team will be unified.
• Once timelines and transition plans are developed, staffing may be added, relocated or eliminated based upon regional needs.
All three existing hospitals in the system will remain open and will continue to operate as acute care inpatient facilities with emergency departments. The combined health system will operate hospitals in Cambridge, Chestertown and Easton; a freestanding emergency center and adjacent medical pavilion in Queenstown; a nursing and rehabilitation center in Chestertown; and outpatient care and diagnostic centers in Cambridge, Centreville, Chestertown, Denton and Easton. Home care and hospice services will be continued throughout the region by the combined system.
Foundations will continue to raise funds for their specific hospitals and funds raised in each unique community will stay in each community. Auxiliaries and volunteers will remain locally based in support of the individual hospitals they serve and support.
In addition to approving the merger, the Boards have endorsed modification of clinical services to reflect regional needs and resources. Clinical changes at the health systems that have already been implemented include:
• The addition of new medical specialists in Kent County, including a urologist, a nephrologist, and a neurologist.
• The completion of the Shore Medical Pavilion in Queenstown has expanded access to services in the region including primary care, cardiology, ENT, urology, physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, a regional sleep study center and extensive diagnostic imaging services, including mammography, MRI, xray, ultrasound and bone densitometry.
Clinical changes expected to be implemented near term include:
• Enhanced access to regional services and programs, including but not limited to a women’s breast center, a diabetes program, telemedicine and hospice and palliative care, for the Chester River community.
• Centralizing diagnostic cardiac catheterization services at Memorial Hospital. The cardiac catheterization lab currently in operation at Chester River handles fewer than 50 diagnostic procedures annually, and is in need of replacement at an estimated cost of $1 million. Certain invasive cardiac procedures currently performed in the Chester River cath lab, such as pacemaker implantation, will be moved to the Chester River Hospital operating rooms, where new investments are being made in radiology equipment.
The decision to merge the two organizations was taken after a comprehensive review of the population health needs of the five Mid-Shore counties, which was conducted by the Regionalization Study Committee (RSC) comprised of Board members and administrative leaders from both health systems over the past year. The study process included a series of community forums held throughout the region, as well as multiple forums for physicians and the health systems’ employees and volunteers.
The new organization will address the unique challenges of delivering health care in rural areas and will be in a better position to address these challenges, which include provider shortages, scarcity of specialty care, and a predominately aging population with multiple chronic conditions.
The Regionalization Study Committee will remain in place and will continue to meet through June 30, 2013, while management staffs at both health systems plan and coordinate the important next steps that will include the development of a transition plan; name and branding; timelines for new program implementations; service delivery; and a unified budget.
About Chester River Health System
The Chester River Health System was formed in 1997 to offer state-of-the-art health care to the residents of Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. Chester River Health System, a member of the University of Maryland Medical System, includes Chester River Hospital, Chester River Home Care & Hospice, Chester River Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, and Chester River Health Foundation. The system provides health care through a network of community-based services and is recognized throughout the community for providing quality, compassionate care with a personal touch.
Chester River Hospital, established by community citizens in 1935, is a not-for-profit community hospital which provides inpatient services, 24-hour emergency care, surgical services, outpatient diagnostic services, rehabilitation services, and oncology services. The hospital is staffed by more than 400 employees. The medical staff currently consists of more than 100 active and consulting physicians representing more than 20 specialties. For more information, visit www.chesterriverhealth.org
About Shore Health System
Shore Health System was formed in 1996 through the affiliation of the Memorial Hospital at Easton, located in Talbot County, Maryland, and Dorchester General Hospital, located in the city of Cambridge in Dorchester County. Both hospitals have served their communities for over 100 years. Today, Shore Health System is a regional, not-for-profit network of inpatient and outpatient services with facilities in Talbot, Dorchester, Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties. Shore Health is staffed by more than 2000 employees and a medical staff of 200 primary care and specialty physicians.
In 2006, Shore Health System merged with the University of Maryland Medical System to expand clinical programs and facilities, and to facilitate physician recruitment. The two Shore Health System hospitals have 188 inpatient beds, including the 20-bed Requard Center for Acute Rehabilitation at Memorial Hospital and a 16-bed inpatient behavioral health unit for adults at Dorchester General Hospital. The Queen Anne’s Emergency Center near Grasonville opened in 2010 and operates 24 hours a day, every day, to respond to minor injuries and illnesses as well as to strokes, heart attacks, and traumatic injuries, with seamless coordination when patients need to be transported by ambulance or helicopter to a hospital. The Shore Health System regional network of outpatient services includes primary and specialty physician practices for people of all ages along with diagnostic testing, medical rehabilitation, cancer care, diabetes management, digestive health, home health care and hospice. For more information, visit www.shorehealth.org.
About University of Maryland Medical System
The University of Maryland Medical System is a 12-hospital system with academic, community and specialty service missions reaching every part of the state and beyond. UMMS is a national and regional referral center for trauma, cancer care, neurocare, cardiac care, women’s and children’s health and physical rehabilitation. It also has one of the nation’s largest kidney transplant programs, as well as scores of other programs that improve the physical and mental health of thousands of people daily. UMMS has 18,000 employees, approximately 2,300 licensed beds, over 120,000 annual patient admissions and gross patient revenues of $3 billion. Additionally, the Medical System generates nearly $3.5 billion in economic activity in Maryland. For more information, visit www.umms.org.