Harbor Hospital may join Helix Deal would add 376 beds to growing network

November 15, 1995|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

The boards of Helix Health and Harbor Health System are scheduled to meet today, potentially approving an agreement that would bring Harbor into the Helix system, sources said.

The deal would add 376 beds to the 1,300 in the Helix network -- making it slightly larger than the 1,600-bed Johns Hopkins Health System. Helix already includes Good Samaritan, Union Memorial, Franklin Square and Church Home, which began merged operations in August.

James A. Oakey, president and CEO of Helix, had previously confirmed interest in Harbor. Yesterday, however, he said, "Helix Health has a number of exciting projects in development that will enable us to enhance the health care services we offer. The Helix Health board of directors meets regularly to assess these opportunities. We have no news to announce at this time."

L. Barney Johnson, president and CEO of Harbor, said, "In this rapidly changing health-care environment, the feasibility of a hospital operating independently is diminishing. The Harbor Health System board is currently pursuing a variety of opportunities, the details of which have not been finalized."

Just over a month ago, Helix announced a partnership with Medlantic Health care Group, which operates advanced surgery and trauma facilities in the Washington region, including the Washington Hospital Center and the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Between them, Helix and Medlantic also operate five nursing homes, an ambulatory surgery clinic, a home-care nursing agency and a medical equipment company. Each also has an affiliated physicians' group.

The Helix-Medlantic partnership has indicated it would target growth into Howard and Anne Arundel counties, between the Baltimore and Washington markets where both are already a strong presence. Located on South Hanover Street near Baltimore's southern edge, Harbor draws a number of patients from Anne Arundel County.

The majority of hospitals in the area have joined some type of affiliation in the past year. Nine hospitals are in the Atlantic Health group, which includes Johns Hopkins, Sinai and St. Joseph. Greater Baltimore Medical Center and St. Joseph are affiliated in the Maryland Health Network with three hospitals in Washington's Maryland suburbs. Both of those are looser affiliations than Helix.

With more patients in managed care plans -- about a third of those in this area -- hospitals have found large networks can negotiate agreements more effectively with managed care operations, according to Gerard Anderson, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management.

"If you look at an area like Minneapolis, which is more developed, three health care systems dominate the region," Dr. Anderson said. "Hospitals are looking at this type of environment, and feel they need to be part of a large provider network that covers the whole area to survive."

"The day of the independent hospital is fast coming do a close," Helix's Mr. Oakey said last month.

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