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Don't Assume You Need to Join a Health System

By Philip Betbeze  
   June 15, 2017

It's not for everyone, but for Marin General Hospital, being a standalone hospital means it doesn't have to be a capital contributor to the mothership and can serve its community better.

Lee Domanico wasn't party to the acrimonious decision that broke Marin General Hospital away from the control of Sutter Health. But he was brought on in 2008, shortly after the decision, to help engineer the transition.

It took place in the middle of 2010, and later he became CEO.

Since then, the 235-bed public hospital has continued to successfully buck the trend of hospitals being acquired by larger parent companies that typifies the consolidation that's been the norm in healthcare for years.

In fact, it's been so successful, that MGH has broken ground on a $400 million replacement hospital that will open in 2 1/2 years. With 177 private rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights, multiple gardens, and the latest in healthcare technology, the new facility is designed to be "at the corner of highly complex medicine and the healing arts," says Domanico.

With its independence secured, Domanico wants other CEOs and boards to know that jumping into the arms of the nearest big-capital acquirer isn't always the best strategic decision.

"There are two types of member hospitals: those that contribute capital and those on the receiving end," he contends. "Marin General, historically, had been a contributor."

If you aren't sure your hospital will be a receiver of capital, you should think over your decision to join a larger health system very carefully, he says.

Know Your Characteristics

To be sure, Marin General has some significant advantages over other small hospitals. Perhaps the most obvious is the affluence of its location.

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.

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