Reproduced with permission from the Times Union, timesunion.com
ALBANY–Columbia Memorial Hospital has asked the state Health Department to approve a plan to make Albany Medical Center its parent.
A review committee has recommended the plan be approved. The final say rests with the state Public Health and Health Planning Council, which will consider the issue at its October 8 meeting.
Columbia Memorial asserts that the move would make the delivery of health services more efficient and stable in its region, while also saving costs, according to information published online by the Health Department. The plan involves no exchange of cash or assets.
Columbia Memorial lost $2.2 million in 2013, $550,000 in 2014 and nearly $400,000 in the first half of this year, Health Department documents show. Albany Med had operating income of $10 million in 2013 and $34.7 million in 2014.
A spokesman for Columbia Memorial said officials did not want to discuss the plan until after the October 8 Health Department meeting. An Albany Med spokesman did not return a call.
The state review comes a little more than a year after the two hospital-based health systems announced they were in talks to affiliate, saying at the time that a full merger was not under consideration.
The proposal awaiting final state endorsement would make Albany Med parent and co-operator of Columbia. Albany Med would have the right to approve: appointments to Columbia Memorial’s Board of Directors; in consultation with the Columbia Memorial board, the hiring and firing of the CEO; budgets and strategic plans; and debt exceeding $1 million that the smaller hospital planned to acquire.
Medical services at the 192-bed hospital in Hudson and its satellite clinics would not change, according to the proposal.
At the time of their announcement to affiliate last year, officials at the two organizations said they wanted to seek ways to leverage each other’s expertise, rather than duplicate services.
Generally, the Health Department encourages alliances among medical providers if they improve results and decrease costs by reducing unnecessary hospitalizations.
The region’s hospitals and health systems have consolidated and formed alliances in recent years to survive amid government health reforms and changing methods of payment for medical services.
Saratoga and Glens Falls hospitals also announced last year they were talking about potential collaboration, Albany-based St. Peter’s Health Partners and Schenectady-based Ellis Medicine — each the result of previous hospital mergers — last year created a “clinically integrated network” to recruit doctors and compete as one unit for new types of contracts with public and private insurers.
Emerging models of payment for medical services favor organizations that can provide a broad range of care while keeping administrative efficiencies. Coordinating care and intervening in the early stages of an illness — when services cost less and are more effective — have become primary goals under reforms.
To contact Claire Hughes email or call 518-454-5417.