July 23, 2014

Elyria
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University Hospitals to take over EMH

ELYRIA — EMH Healthcare officials announced publicly Thursday a plan to have Cleveland-based University Hospitals take over the Lorain County medical entity.

This aerial photo taken by a drone operated by Chief Photographer Bruce Bishop shows EMH Elyria Medical Center, the flagship facility of EMH Healthcare. If an announcement made Thursday by the health system comes to fruition, the facilities run by EMH will fall under the control of University Hospitals. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

This aerial photo taken by a drone operated by Chief Photographer Bruce Bishop shows EMH Elyria Medical Center, the flagship facility of EMH Healthcare. If an announcement made Thursday by the health system comes to fruition, the facilities run by EMH will fall under the control of University Hospitals. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

The announcement stopped short of calling the move a sale. It was instead described as a full integration of EMH into the UH brand. It will be more than 90 days before the process is complete and will likely result in the current EMH Elyria Medical Center and other facilities having the UH name by year’s end.

“This is not in any shape, form or fashion a sale,” said Jeff Brausch, chairman of the board for Comprehensive Healthcare of Ohio, the parent company of EMH. “When you are talking about a nonprofit organization, our assets will be absorbed into the entirety of UH, and we will have the strength and backing of UH in our local community.”

No financial information was released about the deal.

Thorough exam

Don Sheldon, EMH’s chief executive officer, said that in the coming months, every aspect of the EMH organization will be thoroughly evaluated by UH, as only a letter of intent to explore integration has been signed at this point. But both parties agree that talks would not have progressed to this level if the full intent was not to move forward.

“Our main objective going into this process is to make sure we have a strong hospital that remains in Elyria,” Sheldon said. “It was a matter of us needing a big brother, so to speak, that has bigger strengths for us to collaborate with in the future.”

Brian Hoagland, chairman of the board for EMH Elyria Medical Center, said several possibilities for EMH’s future were explored in recent years.

“But UH was by far the best fit for us,” he said.

The need to partner with UH stemmed from continued changes in the health care industry that would make it nearly impossible for a hospital of EMH’s size — more than 2,100 employees — to stay competitive. Impending changes under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called “ObamaCare,” further convinced EMH officials that it needed to move fast.

“We are a hospital of midsize, and I think it’s been clearly known that we have been getting squeezed on all sides,” Brausch said.

Mercy Regional Medical Center, the county’s other major health care provider, is part of Catholic Health Partners, the largest health system in Ohio and one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the nation.

Catholic Health Partners is further solidifying its presence in Northeast Ohio with the recent move to exploring the acquisition of Kaiser Permanente Ohio’s existing health program and its more than 80,000 members in the region.

“There are still many steps to complete before that transaction closes, including obtaining regulatory approval from the Ohio Department of Insurance,” said an email from Jennifer Cakir, Mercy’s marketing director.

UH, which includes 10 hospitals and 20 outpatient health centers and has stayed viable while competing against the Cleveland Clinic, does not take this venture lightly, said UH CEO Thomas Zenty III.

During initial conversations, Zenty said it was EMH’s commitment to patient care, its footprint in the community and commitment to primary and preventive care that made the integration proposal an attractive business model.

“We want to grow and develop EMH,” he said.

Zenty said a top-to-bottom review will look at EMH’s facilities, services, patient demographics and community relations. A similar process took place in Bedford, Richmond and Geauga, when smaller hospitals in each of those communities came under the UH umbrella.

“If you have followed UH practices in the past 10 years, you would see our approach is to bring services as close to people’s homes as we can,” Zenty said. “Our community hospitals serve to complement our main campus in bringing patient care to the community level. Simply put, we want as much care as possible right here in Elyria.”

Mercy already has a relationship with UH Seidman Cancer Center. Zenty said that relationship will have to be evaluated as well. He could not speak to how an affiliation with both hospitals, largely seen as competitors in the county, would work in the future.

Cakir said Mercy is looking forward to keeping the agreement in place.

“We have a positive partnership with University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and look forward to continuing to work with University Hospitals to serve the Lorain County community and provide high-quality health care within the community,” she said in a statement.

Brausch said the physicians Lorain County residents see today and the services offered today will continue after the integration.

Going forward

But what changes patients can see are being billed as positive ones.

Elyria will gain from having UH connected to its hospital, Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said.

“From an economic development perspective, being part of this larger system with more resources will help the city retain and attract employers and families to our community,” she said. “Moreover, the new relationship is the best of both worlds: It allows Elyria to maintain its prestigious and historic local hospital and allows University Hospitals to inherit a proven, high-quality local health care provider that is committed to preserving and expanding its scope of services.”

Brinda said she has spoken with Sheldon and understands why this step had to be taken.

“This is a proactive step on behalf of EMH to preserve and expand the availability of high-quality health care in our community — and save local jobs. The current economic climate and the changing dynamics of health care require hospital systems to operate in a more regional approach,’’ she said.

EMH executives have been thinking along the collaborative spectrum for years.

In 2011, EMH, Parma Community General Hospital and Southwest General Health System teamed up to create the for-profit company Community Health Collaborative to look at ways for each entity to control costs. The move was geared toward the operations side of health care rather than the clinical side.

At that time, Sheldon said EMH could “no longer operate in isolation and expect to retain the necessary strength required to meet our mission to our community.”

EMH also began looking at its facility portfolio and making shifts in operations to strengthen its community health centers. EMH Amherst Hospital, which has been owned and operated by EMH since 1994, was transformed into a free-standing emergency room with a longterm acute care facility and adjoining, independently operated skilled nursing home.

Sheldon said at the announcement of the switch that it was the best scenario for the property, which had been draining $1 million a year from the health system’s budget for several years.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.

  • Anonymousrabbit

    Don’t do it EMH, UH is one of the worst hospitals I’ve ever seen, The bathroom of a sewage plant is cleaner & the employees there are Rude, Lazy, don’t know jack S%&! about their pt. They have mean looking dog faces & if a family member has ?s they go in the opposite direction like they don’t want to be bothered. So unless your hard up for lawsuits STAY AWAY from UH.

    • taxpayer89

      Just because you had a bad experience with UH doesn’t mean EMH will change the way they treat patients. The employees are still the same and if it helps Elyria financially then great.

    • K Go

      I’ve been to UH multiple times in Cleveland, and my experience was the exact opposite. Very clean facilities, friendly/caring nurses and doctors, and they were always glad to answer questions. UH saved my life, and I am very thankful for that.

    • Elisabeth1981

      I had a bad experience at EMH twice but the other option is worse. I hired an OB clinic with two OBs who are women to manage my pregnancy. I have a condition where I need medication until my 13th week of pregnancy. I didn’t know until a nurse friend told me about it early in my pregnancy. When I went to the doctor they laughed when I asked about it. I went into labor in my second trimester and the high risk doctor who delivered my son told me it would’ve made all the difference. There were other red flags about them and I was looking for a new ob when I lost my child.

      Six months ago I was in a roll over accident. When the doctor asked what brought me in, I told her my car had rolled over twice. She asked what I meant as if she couldn’t understand or something. Her bedside manner was horrible.

      Sad but I prefer Fairview.

    • oscwahoo

      I agree. UH is the “poor guy” Cleveland Clinic. Clinic was not interested in the “poor” surrounding area. I wonder if the EMH leadership will get their medical care from the new EMH. UH is the place you go to die.

  • Bob Owens

    WOW

  • hottamomma

    it will always be known as EMH to me

  • Anonymousrabbit

    I never mentioned nor do I expect the employees of EMH to change on how they treat their patients, but every time I’ve gone to UH my experience has always been bad. My family as well as myself are very friendly and polite people. We didn’t deserve the treatment that we got. You were obviously lucky to go to a clean area with nicer people, yet were I was was I wouldn’t send my dog to. Everyone has their opinion some like UH others don’t.

    • Michael A. Figueroa

      Maybe you’re the problem? One of those people that go to the hospital and expect the doctors to be your butlers and the nurses to be your slaves.

      • Anonymousrabbit

        Actually you have it wrong I’m one those patients who prefers to do
        as much for myself, I rarely put on the call light I always say please and thank you. I know how overwhelmed the Rn’s can get and NO I don’t expect the RN’s & Dr’s to be my butlers and slaves. But you sound like the typical freeloading Ahole who does.

        • Michael A. Figueroa

          Nope, no freeloading here. Gainfully employed and insured.

    • BGuest

      Post it a 3rd time. Maybe it will come true.

  • guest

    Who owns EMH? If the citizens of Elyria paid for this hospital, then shouldn’t the people of Elyria get a vote in what happens to it or does this board of governors just get to give the hospital away?

    • taxpayer89

      Emh is independent and if the tax payers pay for the hospital and the majority of the patients are uninsured, your choice is to have the hospital close like Huron or have another take over. It will be a benefit financially.

  • The Great One

    No one cares about any of your opinions