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USC completes purchase of Verdugo Hills Hospital

The University of Southern California’s purchase of Verdugo Hills Hospital has been completed.

In a statement Tuesday announcing the completion of the purchase, Len LaBella, chief executive of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, said the affiliation “helps to take us forward in a powerful way.”

USC will invest $30 million in the 158-bed Verdugo Hills Hospital, expanding its obstetrics department and renovating and upgrading the ER. USC is also considering adding a special center for cardiac patients and adding to the general surgery options, the L.A. Times reported.

The idea of a merger had been discussed among Verdugo Hills administrators for more than two years. And in March, the News-Press reported that the hospital had reached an agreement with USC. In a joint statement on Tuesday, the two parties announced that the deal had been completed.

“By joining forces, we will significantly strengthen both of our organizations, and we will find innovative new ways to deliver the very best patient care to the people of the Foothills and throughout Southern California,” USC President C. L. Max Nikias said.

Keck Medicine of USC -- which already had two hospitals, a medical school, a physician group and numerous clinics -- wanted to expand its reach into the foothill communities and add an emergency room to its network.

Verdugo Hills, meanwhile, follows in the footsteps of other community hospitals that have been merging with larger operations in order to remain competitive as the federal health care overhaul takes effect.

USC Health Chief Executive Tom Jackiewicz told the L.A. Times that the purchase will ensure that patients get the best possible services close to home and that they have access to high-quality primary care at the community hospital as well as more specialized treatment at the academic medical center.

“We want to make sure we get closer to patients,” he said. “Being isolated here in East Los Angeles is not going to be enough. “

The goal, he said, isn’t to create a “Keck north” but rather to strengthen Verdugo Hills as a community hospital that provides services at low cost.

“We don’t want to drive up healthcare costs,” he said.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Anna Gorman contributed to this report.

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Follow Jason Wells on Facebook, Google+ and on Twitter: @JasonBretWells.

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