St. Joseph Medical shelves merger talks with GBMC Indecision by GBMC prompts move

Johns Hopkins still a choice


May 01, 1998|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

With Greater Baltimore Medical Center still undecided as to whether to join with Johns Hopkins Medicine or nearby St. Joseph Medical Center, St. Joseph said yesterday it "has no plans to continue discussions with GBMC" and will seek other partners.

"The door isn't closed to discussing this in the future, but that's not where our energies are directed now," Linda Harder, St. Joseph director of marketing and public relations, said yesterday. "The marketplace is moving quickly, and we need to put our energy into activities that will benefit the hospital and the community."

GBMC issued a statement acknowledging the St. Joseph action, but giving no indication of how the hospital will proceed. Its board met Wednesday night until nearly midnight, but could not decide on a partner.

The St. Joseph board had decided in advance that it would consider other options if GBMC did not act "and clearly communicated that to GBMC," Harder said.

Dr. Edward D. Miller, chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said Hopkins remains very interested in an "affiliation-merger-program development-whatever" with GBMC.

"The next step has to come from them [GBMC]," he said. "Their board has to rehuddle and decide where to go."

Miller also said he would welcome an opportunity to meet with GBMC's doctors and to answer any questions they have.

Questions about combining clinical programs, about business strategy and about how to govern the new entity occur whenever a hospital consolidation is being considered.

In the case of GBMC and St. Joseph, however, while board members and doctors were dealing with such questions, the public focused on issues involved in a nonsectarian hospital affiliating with a Roman Catholic one.

There was controversy over whether the Roman Catholic religious directives followed by St. Joseph -- prohibiting abortion, sterilization and in-vitro fertilization -- would affect GBMC, which is known for its large range of women's services.

"At this point, we're relieved" that the St. Joseph-GBMC is not VTC moving ahead, said Pat Gongloff, interim executive director of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, one of the groups that expressed concern on whether the proposed affiliation would curtail services at GBMC.

Cynthia L. H. Crawley, president of the board of Women's Hospital of Maryland, said, "If the talks have cooled, it's probably a good thing for women's health concerns."

The Women's Hospital was one of two institutions that merged to form GBMC in 1965, and its board administers an endowment that has generated $7.8 million for GBMC in the past 10 years. The Women's Hospital board said last week it would stop contributing to GBMC if it affiliated with St. Joseph.

Last month, GBMC said it would discontinue abortions if it affiliated with St. Joseph, but would continue all other services. After expressions of concern and protest, GBMC officials said this month that they had revised the terms of their potential deal with St. Joseph to allow abortions to continue on the GBMC campus.

Rather than combining through a merger of assets, the two hospitals would set up a joint operating company that would run both institutions, under an arrangement approved this month by the St. Joseph board after consultation with the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

GBMC would have created a separate corporation to provide abortion and in-vitro fertilization in a building on the hospital grounds, and St. Joseph and its parent, Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, would have derived no revenue from the procedures.

Gongloff, of Planned Parenthood, said yesterday that she had met with GBMC officials, who had assured her that the proposed arrangement would ensure continuation of services. But she said she still had questions and qualms about the arrangements.

Maryland hospitals have been consolidating rapidly. About three-quarters are affiliated in some way with a larger system.

A pending merger between North Arundel Health System in Glen Burnie and Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore will unite two of the remaining independent hospitals.

Also pending is a merger between Helix Health, with five hospitals in the Baltimore area, and Medlantic Healthcare Group in Washington, to create the largest health system in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Pub Date: 5/01/98

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