Hospital matchmaking Medicine's new world: Part of a trend, purchase of Howard General by Johns Hopkins makes sense.

March 27, 1998

THE MERGER OF Howard County General Hospital and Johns Hopkins Medicine seems to be right for all involved.

Howard County General has been posting profits, but its $56 million in bonded indebtedness stood in the way of necessary expansion. Johns Hopkins paid $142 million for the community hospital, securing a presence in affluent Howard to counter its volume of indigent patients in poorer Baltimore City.

Johns Hopkins and Howard County General began a joint venture in 1996 to provide outpatient catheterization procedures at the hospital in Columbia. But their relationship dates to 1973, when Johns Hopkins and Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. helped found the Columbia Clinic.

That 59-bed facility evolved into today's Howard County General, a 233-bed, 1,200-employee, $80-million operation.

Mergers have become common in the hospital industry in order to cope with increased costs.

In recent years, the Baltimore area has seen Liberty Medical Center merge with Bon Secours Hospital and Mercy Medical Center join with the North Arundel Health System in Glen Burnie. Greater Baltimore Medical Center is discussing a deal with three suitors: St. Joseph's, Hopkins and Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown.

In Howard, residents have been apprehensive about Howard General's search for a partner.

They feel as if they built the hospital from scratch, digging into their pockets to buy the bonds that financed earlier expansions.

Now fear hovers that an institution as impressive as Hopkins will discard the small-town character of the county's only hospital.

To its credit, Hopkins has tried to allay fears by promising that two-thirds of the new hospital board will be county residents.

And it will create a nonprofit health-services foundation, run by community leaders, to address issues such as teen pregnancy and domestic violence.

The future for medical care in Howard looks bright.

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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