St. Joseph's, Guthrie sign letter of intent to combine health systems - Catholic Courier

St. Joseph’s, Guthrie sign letter of intent to combine health systems

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira has taken another step on its long journey to becoming part of Guthrie Healthcare System.

Officials from Guthrie and St. Joseph’s announced Aug. 28 that they had jointly signed a letter of intent to align. Under this agreement, Guthrie — which is based in Sayre, Pa. — would commit $54 million to St. Joseph’s. The Elmira hospital would remain a Catholic acute-care facility, maintaining its adherence to Catholic ethical and religious directives. It also would retain a local board of directors while also having representation on Guthrie boards.

Funds from Guthrie "will be earmarked for the assumption of debt/liabilities, the recruitment of additional physicians to St. Joseph’s, and capital improvements such as upgrades to the Emergency Department and the hospital’s infrastructure," according to a statement from St. Joseph’s. "The two organizations also plan to work collaboratively to enhance hospital services and programs and increase efficiencies."

The effort is at the same juncture it was in November 2006, when St. Joseph’s and Guthrie announced the signing of a similar letter of intent. But just days later, New York state’s Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century ordered St. Joseph’s to begin supervised merger discussions with Elmira’s Arnot Ogden Medical Center. In November 2007 the state’s Department of Health announced that St. Joseph’s and Arnot, though unable to reach an agreement after nine months of talks, had satisfied the commission’s requirements. This reopened the door for a St. Joseph’s-Guthrie affiliation to be pursued.

According to Sister Marie Castagnaro, SSJ, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s, her hospital and Guthrie will next file a Certificate of Need application with the health department and hope to begin official collaboration by the end of 2009. She said she does not foresee any procedural obstacles similar to those that took place in late 2006.

St. Joseph’s had originally contacted Guthrie five years ago about a potential collaboration due to financial problems stemming from the independent Catholic hospital’s commitment to providing care for uninsured and underinsured patients.

"St. Joseph’s mission of meeting the needs of the community — particularly those most vulnerable — will be strengthened by our association with Guthrie," Sister Castagnaro said in a statement Aug. 28. "Guthrie recognizes and appreciates the unique role and critical service that St. Joseph’s provides to the community."

"We are excited to be at this point in the process. We value St. Joseph’s long history of service and its tradition of providing quality health care to the community. This partnership will benefit both organizations. It will bring additional services to the St. Joseph’s campus and, its existing specialty services such as its outstanding acute care rehabilitation program, will serve as a resource to the rest of the health care system," said a statement from Mark Stensager, president/CEO of Guthrie Healthcare System.

Sister Castagnaro noted that the affiliation with Guthrie would position St. Joseph’s — which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year — as a key part of an integrated health-care system covering a broad geographic region.

"The breadth and depth of such an integrated regional delivery system would benefit our communities in a number of ways," she stated. "Patients would have more convenient access to specialty care and expanded choices in terms of providers. Jointly developed best practices would result in high quality patient care provided in the most effective and efficient manner. I envision that this system would also have an economic impact with more than 5,000 skilled health care professionals and staff providing care to more than 200,000 people from all walks of life."

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