Patients in Harford and western Cecil counties stand to get expanded medical services with the announcement yesterday that Upper Chesapeake Health System has formalized a partnership with St. Joseph Medical Center of Towson.
St. Joseph will invest $25 million in Upper Chesapeake's plans to build a new hospital in Bel Air to replace Fallston General.
In addition, the Towson facility will help expand the cardiology, obstetrics and other programs at Upper Chesapeake's two current hospitals -- Fallston General and Harford Memorial.
The arrangement, in the works since autumn, is not a merger and is not expected to cause layoffs in either nonprofit organization, officials said.
There may even be jobs created as Upper Chesapeake expands some of its services, the officials said.
"We feel that we've partnered with an organization that brings a lot of strengths to us here, shares a common market and can help us do some things we feel are important for the community," said Lyle E. Sheldon, president and chief executive officer of Upper Chesapeake.
The arrangement is the latest in a wave of partnerships and consolidations sweeping the health care community. Giant Helix Health and Medlantic Healthcare Group announced last week a merger that would create the largest health system in the region; Mercy Medical Center of Baltimore and North Arundel Health System of Glen Burnie announced merger plans last month; Howard County General in Columbia and Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown have announced that they are looking for partners; and Helix and Johns Hopkins Medicine have held talks about affiliating.
In that climate, Sheldon said, the new partnership ensures local control over health care for the communities involved. St. Joseph will appoint members to the Upper Chesapeake board, but Sheldon said that still amounts to local control because the two organizations already share some physicians and service areas.
In the next few months, the hospitals will form a nonprofit entity to oversee the Harford area efforts. Upper Chesapeake will have majority interest in that new organization, the two sides said.
For St. Joseph, the partnership means a chance to expand its influence in a region where it felt growing interest.
"It's a way for us to both continue and expand our mission and ministry with an organization that has similar values and whose mission is not so different from ours," said St. Joseph spokeswoman Linda Harder.
Upper Chesapeake has agreed to abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church that govern facilities such as St. Joseph. The non-Catholic organization will not be under church control, but has agreed not to violate such policies as a prohibition on performing abortions or doctor-assisted suicides.
Sheldon said Upper Chesapeake had no prior policy on abortion, but that it was not a common practice and that the Ethical and Religious Directives will not change any current standards.
The Bel Air hospital is still on target for groundbreaking this summer and completion in 2000, Sheldon said. That facility will ,, be a medical campus with 120 beds, an ambulatory care center and a medical office building.
Upper Chesapeake's two current hospitals total 484 beds, plus a home health agency and hospice. The system posts annual revenue of more than $110 million.
St. Joseph operates 460 total beds, a home health agency and hospice and a holistic wellness center. Its annual revenue is more than $176 million.
Pub Date: 2/25/98