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How can small hospitals stay independent?




In this era of  hospital partnering and consolidation, is there an argument for smaller and rural hospitals to go it alone and remain independent?

Or, as this article  by Beth A. Nelson,  a consultant in the healthcare practice of the executive-search firm Witt/Kieffer,  in Hospitals & Health Networks, asks: “If not, is there a degree of creative partnering that affords local facilities independence and control, yet also access to broader services and lower costs?”

In talking with chief executives at some independent hospitals, she found various strategies for keeping as much independence as possible and the rationales for doing so.

Tim Putnam, president and CEO of Margaret Mary Health, a critical access hospital in Batesville, Ind., noted the central civic threat involved in small and rural hospitals being gobbled up by systems:

“When independent hospitals join larger systems, the mission to the local community first and foremost goes away”.

John Solheim, CEO of Cuyuna Regional Medical Center,  in Crosby, Minn.,  told her that independent hospitals tend to be nimble and can adapt easily to local needs, something that’s difficult  with a big system.

Steven Long, FACHE, president and CEO of Hancock Regional Hospital, in Greenfield, Ind., said that citizens look at the local hospital as ”their hospital and maintain a strong sense of ownership and commitment to it,” H&HN said.

Still,  the decision whether to remain independent ”usually comes down to finances,”  the article noted. {In place of “usually” we’d use the words “virtually always”.}

In any event,  the article says, ”The trick to staying local and ‘going it alone’ is often through configuring creative but limited partnerships with larger systems.”







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