Officials tout ability to plan jointly as doorway to improved care
HUDSON–Healthcare options may look a lot different in Columbia County in the years ahead and now the two biggest players in the field can legally start planning how different it will be.
In a teleconference Monday, January 4 officials from both Columbia Memorial Health and Albany Medical Center (AMC) confirmed the long anticipated news that their affiliation agreement, which received approval from state regulators last year, had been adopted by both the CMH and AMC boards. What both organizations emphasized is that details of the agreement have not changed since they were released last fall but that now planning would begin for the sharing of services and other projects intended to improve healthcare here.
Prior to this point regulators considered the two care systems competitors, though the AMC Hospital, with 743 beds, is nearly 4 times larger Columbia Memorial Hospital, which has 192 beds, and that doesn’t factor in the other 30 other healthcare facilities around the region affiliated in some way with AMC. CMH has 13 independent facilities, most in Columbia and Greene counties.
Anti-competitive concerns and the effect of the affiliations, said CMH President and CEO Jay Cahalan are now resolved and the effect of the agreement is that “it really allows us to get together and plan.” The two boards met for the first Monday and going forward CMH will have two seats on the AMC board and AMC will have two seats on the CMH board.
The agreement does give AMC authority over the CMH budget and the appointment of a future CEO, but this week AMC and CMH were upbeat about the opportunities the affiliation makes possible.
“Historically, CMH is one of the top five institutions with which we have been doing business,” said Albany Medical Center Senior Executive Vice President Steven Frisch, M.D. He estimated there are somewhere between 600 and 700 transfers a year from CMH to the AMC Emergency Department.
Mr. Cahalan said the two institutions already have cooperative programs for obstetrical and cardiac emergency care and that the affiliation allows them to explore other areas, including ways to share electronic medical records.
In addition to its size advantage, AMC is also tertiary care facility, offering the highest levels of expertise and care in the region.
Mr. Cahalan said CMH administrators have kept members organized labor bargaining units informed of the progress toward affiliation and he does not expect any job cuts as part of the new operating agreement.
As for the medical staff, he said, “There’s been no resistance from our docs,” saying that some physicians have been “excited” about CMH having a connection with Albany College of Medicine, which is part of AMC.
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