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Geisinger: Holy Spirit is different from other deals

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Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill
Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill - (Photo / )

Geisinger Health System, which announced today that it is pursuing an affiliation with Holy Spirit Health System, has been reaching out to a number of hospitals and health systems in the past few years.

But, in a phone interview today, Geisinger President and CEO Dr. Glenn Steele Jr. said what Geisinger proposes for Holy Spirit is “quite different in structure and in governance” than the other arrangements.

“Look at Lewistown Hospital, which is still in the regulatory queue,” Steele said, then mentioned Bloomsburg Health System, Shamokin Area Community Hospital, Mercy Health Partners and Community Medical Center. “We’ve had a commitment to take care of patients close to where they live, but in most of the cases that I’ve just mentioned, not all, but in most cases, the platforms had no sustainable business model. They were either going to go away or to CHS or to some other consolidator. We kind of felt we had to step in and offer a membership in the Geisinger family, and quite frankly, in many of those cases, do a turnaround.

“That is not the situation with Holy Spirit,” Steele continued. “We think that Holy Spirit is very healthy. We think that it’s extraordinarily vital demographic.”

Holy Spirit would not be merged into Geisinger under the proposed arrangement, Holy Spirit President and CEO Sister Romaine Niemeyer said, but rather would retain local control and work with Geisinger “very, very closely in everything we do” and “in an integrated fashion.”

Holy Spirit recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and Niemeyer said its board of directors re-evaluated and considered what the right direction for its future would be.

“I think Geisinger really has exactly what Holy Spirit was looking for,” she said. “That’s why we chose to work with them, and thank goodness Geisinger did the same with us. We look to continue our mission for a long time to come.”

Steele said Geisinger is committed to working with independent doctors in accordance with the Holy Spirit mission.

“The way that program expands here is going to be dependent on the independent physicians and their buy-in, their leadership and their continued commitment,” Steele said. “We have no intent at all to parachute in Geisinger-employed physicians.”

Asked about Geisinger’s overall plans for the future, Steele said it “would not see any significant additions in the commonwealth on the provider side of our organization.”

Initial report

After a short-lived and unsuccessful merger with Penn State Hershey Medical Center in the late 1990s, Danville-based powerhouse Geisinger Health System is gearing up for another try at Southcentral Pennsylvania -- with a different partner.

This morning, Geisinger and Camp Hill-based Holy Spirit Health System announced that they have signed a letter of intent to explore ways they can work together to benefit health care in the area.

The signing enables each organization to investigate in greater detail the opportunities to affiliate, according to a news release, and the due diligence and approval process is expected to take six to nine months. Both health systems are nonprofits, and Holy Spirit currently participates in the Geisinger provider network.

The news is the latest wave in an ever-evolving new health care landscape. In November, York-based WellSpan Health and Ephrata Community Hospital announced that they are considering affiliating. In June, the Good Samaritan Health System in Lebanon County said it is seeking a strategic alliance without specifying a potential partner. In July, Health Management Associates Inc., which owns three hospitals here, and Community Health Systems Inc., which owns one hospital here, announced a definitive merger agreement that was cast in serious doubt less than two weeks later when HMA shareholders voted to remove and replace their entire board of directors.

The local landscape is also changing because Harrisburg-based PinnacleHealth System is building a new hospital in Hampden Township.

"This is an important time in our 50-year history as we plan for our future," said Sister Romaine Niemeyer, Holy Spirit's president and CEO. "The Sisters of Christian Charity, in their sponsorship role, and the board of directors are committed to ensuring the mission-driven Catholic identity of Holy Spirit Health System."

"Health care continues to evolve not only in southcentral Pennsylvania, but throughout the United States, and we are always open to exploring ways to improve care and best serve the community," said Dr. Glenn Steele Jr., Geisinger's president and CEO. "Forward-thinking organizations such as Holy Spirit and Geisinger proactively work toward enhancing care, and that is what we are now considering together."

Geisinger, which is headquartered north of the Business Journal's coverage area in Montour County, has its roots in the George F. Geisinger Memorial Hospital that opened in 1915. Today, it is an integrated health services system that serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout 44 counties in Central and Northeastern Pennsylvania. Physician-led, it is nationally known for its care models, and Steele came in 56th on ModernHealthcare.com's most recent list of the 100 most influential people in health care.

Geisinger encompasses a multispecialty group practice with more than 1,000 physicians; six hospitals; two research centers; Geisinger Health Plan, a health insurance company that has more than 100 hospitals in its network and serves 413,000 members; and a medical education program that partners with Temple University School of Medicine and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. All told, it has more than 19,000 employees and an estimated $6.1 billion positive impact on the Pennsylvania economy.

Holy Spirit's flagship is Holy Spirit Hospital, a 315-bed Joint Commission-accredited acute-care facility. The system also provides a comprehensive array of inpatient and outpatient services including acute care, home health, emergency medical services, physician practices and a host of outpatient facilities. The health system has more than 2,900 employees and more than 500 physicians on its hospital medical staff. According to Business Journal records, the system had revenues of more than $360 million in 2012.

The failure of the Geisinger and Penn State Hershey merger in the 1990s has been attributed to a culture clash and differing management styles of the institutions. In announcing the current plans, Geisinger and Holy Spirit emphasized similarities between their organizations.

Geisinger and Holy Spirit said they are both "recognized for quality care, advanced technology, operational strength and extraordinary physicians and employees, all of which represent the necessary resources to create an even more accessible, efficient and effective healthcare delivery system for the region." They share a number of awards, including Health Care's Most Wired hospitals and health systems, Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers, American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition, "A" Hospital Safety Scores by The Leapfrog Group, Joint Commission Accreditation/Recognition, 100 Great Places to Work in Healthcare by Becker's Hospital Review, and Blue Centers of Distinction for cardiac care, spine surgery, knee and hip replacement.

"Our focus has always been to deliver innovative and collaborative medical services to the community, especially as health care reform has rapidly changed how care is insured, funded and delivered," said Niemeyer. "Geisinger brings a proven record of similar successful ventures, an affiliated insurance plan and nationally acclaimed patient-centered care to complement Holy Spirit's strong presence in the greater Harrisburg area, and the reputation for both quality and caring."

"Over the past 50 years, Holy Spirit has earned accolades for providing high quality, compassionate care and has established itself as an integral part of the Camp Hill and Harrisburg community," said Steele. "We welcome this opportunity to study the possibilities of working together."

No further details were immediately available.

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer covers Lancaster County, nonprofits, education and health care. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at heathers@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @StaufferCPBJ.

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