Bon Secours to eliminate some service Inpatient beds to close at one of system's hospital campuses

Consolidation effort

Merger helps save troubled facilities, open new operations

Medical industry

September 04, 1998|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, which operates both Bon Secours Hospital and Liberty Medical Center, plans to close all inpatient beds at one of its campuses by the end of next year.

The consolidation of inpatient services is part of a broad plan, called "Transformation 2000" which would add senior housing and adult day care, a birthing center, an ambulatory surgical center and other programs at the hospital campuses and at outpatient centers in West Baltimore.

While there will be some loss of jobs, the move is necessary to preserve the two hospitals, which are currently unprofitable, and to offer new services needed in the community, said Jacquelyn Gaines, vice president of community health systems integration for the health system.

"Running two hospitals at 30 percent of capacity, if we don't consolidate, we would have to close the system," Gaines said. "We've been here for 100 years, and we want to be here for the next 100 years. In order to do that, we can't stand still."

She said the decision on which campus will keep its inpatient beds should be made this fall. She said both hospitals would retain their emergency rooms -- Liberty's is to be renovated -- and a variety of outpatient services.

"Both campuses will remain vibrant anchors in the community," Gaines said.

The plan responds to a dramatic shift of medical care in recent years from inpatient to outpatient settings, and should please health planners, who have complained that excess hospital capacity in Baltimore is driving up costs.

On the other hand, consolidations of hospital services, such as those proposed last year in Cumberland, often generate community opposition.

Bon Secours is licensed for 208 beds, Liberty for 282. Each has 80 to 100 beds filled on an average day, Gaines said.

She said the consolidation could eliminate as many as 300 of the health system's 1,200 jobs. However, she said, it was hoped the new services could generate about 150 jobs, and that others could be eliminated by attrition, which averages about 100 positions a year.

"The good news is that we're announcing this a year out," she said. "We want to be sensitive to the needs of our employees and patients."

The Bon Secours Health System, Inc., based in Marriotsville and the parent of the Baltimore system, went through a similar process with hospitals it runs in Virginia, Gaines said.

While 840 jobs were initially identified for elimination there, she said, after attrition and new services, there were only about 100 layoffs.

Gaines said the plan was developed this year after the health system did a "needs assessment" of its community.

In the six zip codes in West and Northwest Baltimore from which Bon Secours and Liberty draw the most patients, according to the study, the per capita income is $9,920 per year, 21 percent of those able to work are unemployed and 81 percent of mothers are unmarried.

The health system concluded that it needed to offer more services for women and children and for the elderly. Among the plans are: Opening an adult day care center in Liberty's Urban Medical Institute building this year, and expanding it next year.

Completing a $6 million, 84-unit senior independent living project on the Liberty campus by 2001. Gaines said the system would also like to add assisted living units at Liberty.

Developing a "birthing center," possibly at Liberty, in partnership with a hospital that could handle complex cases, such as newborns who need intensive care. Neither Liberty nor Bon Secours currently offers obstetrics.

Opening an outpatient surgical center, at a location to be determined. Hospitals, which have rates that are regulated, have been losing business to free-standing surgical centers, which can offer discounts to HMOs.

Expanding the kidney dialysis program.

Gaines said the staff was told about the plans over the past few days, and that the health system plans a series of community meetings beginning this month to explain the plans. "We respect the loyalty people have to these two institutions," Gaines said. "We know there will be some who don't care for it."

The change will also require state regulatory approval, which Gaines said could take three months to a year.

Liberty, on Liberty Heights Avenue near Mondawmin Mall, was created by the 1986 merger of Provident Hospital and Lutheran Hospital. Lutheran's building was closed after the merger.

In 1996, Liberty was merged into the Bon Secours system. The Sisters of Bon Secours came to West Baltimore in 1881 to offer home nursing, and opened the hospital on West Baltimore Street in 1919.

For the year that ended June 30, 1997, Bon Secours had a profit of $474,400 on revenue of $52.0 million, and Liberty a profit of $1.3 million on revenue of $46.8 million. Books are not yet closed for the most recent fiscal year, but Gaines said the system would "probably break even or be just in the red."

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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