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Partnerships Link Small Hospitals to Big Brands

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, May 7, 2014

How three hospital partnerships in different regions of the country allow local healthcare organizations to retain their identities.

Driven by economic conditions and healthcare reform, hospitals continue to join forces in an effort to save costs and boost patient volume. These partnerships can be greatly beneficial, especially for smaller hospitals that get to hitch their wagon to a big-name organization (and the marketing clout that goes with it).

But partnerships and mergers can cause conflict, too, particularly when two formerly competing organizations team up. Here's a look at how three hospital partnerships are playing out.

Brooks Memorial Hospital + UPMC Hamot

At Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk, NY, officials mourn the good old days when patients endured long hospital stays for chronic conditions that are now more easily managed.

"I can't remember the last time I had an asthmatic in the hospital, and they used to be here all the time when I started," Anthony Bartholomew, MD, an internist and head of the hospital's medical staff, told the Buffalo News.

To Bartholomew's dismay, nearly two-thirds of the hospital's 65 beds are now empty, causing Brooks to hemorrhage money.

In an effort to turn things around, the hospital has teamed up with UPMC Hamot, a 412-bed University of Pittsburgh Medical Center affiliate located about 50 miles from Brooks.

Hospital officials are really hoping this one sticks, as the organization is coming off a failed merger with TLC Health Network forged in 2008. Now, because of outstanding loans Brooks owes TLC, the hospital is anticipating a $3.1 million deficit this year, causing it to determine how services will be affected.

"We need a reset here," J. Gary Rhodes, a UPMC executive who is Brooks' interim chief, told the Buffalo newspaper. "The survival of the hospital is not at stake, but it needs to be redefined."

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