A little more than a month after UH and EMH Healthcare announced plans to merge, the Cleveland-based hospital is announcing another partnership to launch Rainbow Pediatric Emergency Services at Lorain’s Mercy Regional Medical Center and Oberlin’s Mercy Allen Hospital.
The partnership will be similar to one UH and Mercy forged last year involving UH’s Seidman Cancer Center. “We love partnering. We have a very broad network of experts and we want to increase patient care by allowing our national experts to have access at a variety of different locations,” said Dr. Andrew Hertz, medical director of the UH Rainbow Care Network. “We have always believed in the strength of partnership and look for communities where we can collaborate with health providers that embrace the same dedication to clinical excellence.”
As a part of the Mercy partnership, children will have access to Rainbow pediatric specialists and pediatric experts for follow-up care. Additionally, children who need a higher level of care will have access to Rainbow’s Level I Pediatric Trauma Center. “This partnership gives our families the assurance that when their loved ones need it, they will receive the most advanced techniques in pediatric care,” said Mercy president and CEO Edwin Oley.
Parents likely will continue to see Mercy physicians in Lorain County emergency rooms in the future, but the care will be more in line with Rainbow’s approach, which is very child-centric. In the coming months, the Mercy Regional Medical Center’s emergency department will be renovated to include the creation of a separate waiting room space for pediatric patients and families with child-friendly activities, furniture and atmosphere.
Mercy Allen Hospital’s emergency department also will update its waiting room with more child-friendly decor. New outdoor signage and signage within the emergency departments at both locations will reflect the new partnership. Oley said Mercy’s financial obligation thus far has included paying for extensive training for emergency room physicians and staff. “What our physicians have agreed to do is subscribe by the guidelines and protocols of Rainbow in treating patients in our emergency department,” he said. “Most patients coming into an organization for care and treatment don’t recognize that the difference between adequate, good and better health care is subtle. It’s in the tests you order or what drugs you order that make the most noticeable treatment to patients.”
Hertz could say what the Mercy partnership specifically would do to the planned UH and EMH merger. “The deal hasn’t been finalized so I don’t know what role Rainbow will have at the other location,” he said. “Mercy’s partnership will be more coaching and mentoring with the integration of Rainbow’s high level of quality pediatric care, protocols, nursing guidelines and child life experiences.”
When the UH and EMH merger plans were announced in June, UH CEO Thomas Zenty III touted the UH services that will be brought to Lorain County as a result, including Rainbow’s pediatric care, clinical trials in cancer treatment, advance teaching for physicians and UH medical protocols. “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 at that time. “Our community hospitals serve to complement our main campus in bringing patient care to the community level.”
Don Sheldon, EMH’s chief executive officer, did not wish to comment on the Mercy development. “Due to EMH Healthcare’s ongoing due diligence with University Hospitals, he felt it would be inappropriate to comment on this at this time,” he said through EMH spokeswoman Kristen Davis.
The Mercy partnership has been about nine months in the making and coincides with a similar timetable for the EMH merger. Hertz said it came about because of a need for higher quality after-hours pediatric care in the area. “We want pediatric patients to see their primary care doctors, but if they need an emergency room, we want to make sure the quality is top-notch,” Hertz said. Such deals are becoming more commonplace as continued changes in the health care industry make it nearly impossible for small- and mid-sized hospitals to operate as islands all to themselves.
Impending changes under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called ObamaCare, is expected to further add a layer of bureaucracy smaller hospitals won’t be able to shoulder.
While Mercy and EMH for decades have been the two big medical providers in Lorain County, the Cleveland Clinic and UH have been adding their footprint to the area’s medical care. The Cleveland Clinic opened a building at 303 Chestnut Commons Drive in Elyria in February 2008 and followed that up a few years later with the $93 million Richard E. Jacobs Cleveland Clinic Avon Family Health and Surgery Center off Chester Road.
Plans are in the works to expand the Avon center to include inpatient hospital care as well. Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said in July that the Lorain County expansion is needed as the clinic aims to “build for the future.”