2 health systems plan an alliance Upper Chesapeake, St. Joseph may pool services, insurance

September 20, 1997|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

Continuing the convergence of Maryland medical businesses, St. Joseph Medical Center and Upper Chesapeake Health System said yesterday that they hope to collaborate in providing certain medical services and in dealing with health insurers.

The medical systems intend to negotiate a formal but loose alliance by the end of the year, said St. Joseph's spokeswoman Linda Harder.

They won't merge or lay off employees, the organizations promised.

"St. Joseph and Upper Chesapeake will continue to function as distinct organizations, with a strong collaborative relationship in service development and managed care opportunities," the hospitals said in a prepared statement. "Neither organization anticipates an impact on its work force."

Upper Chesapeake, composed of Fallston General Hospital and Harford Memorial Hospital, has received regulators' permission to build a new hospital in Bel Air to replace Fallston General.

Harder declined to comment on whether St. Joseph's might help pay for the Bel Air building. But, she said: "We are very committed to support the development of that new campus."

St. Joseph's has been looking to deploy its capital beyond its Towson hospital recently.

For example, it just invested in a nearby urgent-care center that had been developed by a group of doctors.

The medical staffs of the two hospital groups overlap slightly; perhaps 5 percent or 10 percent of St. Joseph's doctors also hold privileges at Upper Chesapeake's hospitals, said Harder.

Medical services in which the institutions might collaborate include heart services, specialized surgery, orthopedics and "probably" obstetrics, she said.

For example, St. Joseph's might help upgrade Upper Chesapeake's new-baby care and build smoother ways for transferring sick Harford County babies to St. Joseph's neonatal intensive care unit.

At the same time, the hospitals' doctors might be able to bargain with health maintenance organizations more effectively together than apart.

"Each time you do this, you add the number of physicians that might be in a position to enter into contractual relationships with an HMO," Harder said.

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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