Preserving a neighborhood hospital Anne Arundel County: North Arundel's merger with Mercy ensures its survival.

January 28, 1998

NORTH ARUNDEL HEALTH System and Mercy Medical Center are uniting in hopes of better navigating the tumultuous waters of U.S. health care. The alliance, which should be completed this year, will probably ensure the survival of the Glen Burnie hospital.

In an environment where managing costs is perhaps as important as delivering quality medical care, the 329-bed community hospital has been searching for ways to thrive.

North Arundel, created after World War II to serve the growing suburban communities of Glen Burnie and Pasadena, has been nimbly buying all or part of 100 physician practices, a family care center, a pharmacy and an organization that contracts with health maintenance organizations. Last year, it reached agreement with Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital, which offers outpatient treatment and rehabilitation services as well as long-term care for chronically ill patients. These moves have allowed the hospital to generate revenue by delivering care in nonhospital settings.

Last year, North Arundel and Annapolis-based Anne Arundel Medical Center held lengthy merger talks. In the end, the two Anne Arundel County medical organizations could not reach agreement and decided to continue to go their separate ways. North Arundel, which also has fierce competition from Harbor Hospital Center in South Baltimore, continued to look elsewhere for an association.

Mercy, operating in the highly competitive downtown Baltimore market, was also looking for a partner. The Roman Catholic center-city hospital has created high-profile programs in women's medicine, cancer care and occupational medicine. It has made strategic ties of its own, acquiring Stella Maris, a nursing and hospice facility.

By combining with Mercy, North Arundel may have the best of both worlds. The hospital will continue as a distinct community institution, but will be large enough to offer a variety of services to managed-care organizations.

While the immediate purpose of the merger is to strengthen these two medical institutions, the long-range goal must be to better serve the public. If this union permits North Arundel to continue to deliver high-quality care at a food price, the hospital will be serving its public well.

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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