Health systems finish merger Sinai, Northwest form LifeBridge Health

programs unchanged

Medical industry

October 02, 1998|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Sinai and Northwest health systems announced yesterday that they have completed their merger, forming a system to be known as LifeBridge Health.

There will be no immediate change in programs or staff, said Warren Green, who was named president and chief executive officer of LifeBridge. Green had been CEO of Sinai.

Green said LifeBridge was "poised to grow larger if it makes sense, but strong enough to stand alone for a long time."

In fact, he suggested, the wave of hospital consolidation may be slowing. "There's a more conservative trend throughout the industry," he said. "Hospitals are realizing that some mergers don't make sense, other than to create an impression of bigness."

Sinai, in Northwest Baltimore, and Northwest, in Randallstown, make sensible merger partners, Green said, because they have an overlapping service area where they have a combined market share of more than 50 percent.

"It makes us pretty important to anybody wanting to market [an HMO] in the Northwest," Green said.

The tie with Northwest can also mean more referrals to Sinai for highly specialized services, said Robert Fischer, who will remain as president of Northwest in the merged system. "They're already getting a significant percentage" of specialty referrals from Northwest, Fischer said, "but over time, that percentage would increase."

Green said the consolidation presented "some cost-reduction opportunities," which would not involve layoffs. For example, he said, combined purchasing power might allow some items to be bought at lower cost. Also, he said, some high-technology equipment might be kept at only one hospital, saving on duplication.

A consultant will be working with the hospitals on how services at each might change over time, Green said, but "we will continue to have a broad array of services at both campuses. Maybe there will be some shift of emphasis."

Green said the two hospitals and Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center, already a member of Sinai system, will retain their separate identities. "Sinai, Northwest and Levindale are names the public and physicians know and trust," he said.

On the other hand, he continued, the new system will quickly begin operating as a system in dealing with insurers and potential donors.

One focus of the donor effort will be a new LifeBridge Community Health Trust, designed to support community HTC outreach and charitable programs, and supported initially, Green said, by sums from each institution "in the low seven figures."

Fischer said the health trust would look to develop or expand programs in the community for health education and screening.

Neil Meltzer, who has been executive vice president at Sinai, was named president of the hospital as Green moves to the system level. Meltzer and Fischer will also be system vice presidents. Green named about half a dozen other system vice presidents yesterday; most came from Sinai.

Green said he would keep his office at Sinai, but other system managers would have offices at Northwest and Levindale.

Howard Weiss, who was chairman of Northwest's board, will chair the LifeBridge board. Barry Rosen, who was Sinai's board chairman, will be vice chairman. The board includes equal representation from Sinai and Northwest.

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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