D.C. hospital will merge with Johns Hopkins Medicine

A plan to integrate Sibley Memorial Hospital in the District of Columbia with Johns Hopkins Medicine has been approved by regulators.

Johns Hopkins has been pursuing for months an acquisition of 328-bed Sibley Memorial Hospital — a deal that would give the Baltimore-based institution its first hospital in Washington. The deal, approved by Sibley's board Wednesday night, was approved by the district's State Health Planning and Development Agency Thursday, according to a spokeswoman. The Federal Trade Commission also approved the deal, according to Sibley.

Sibley spokeswoman Sheliah Roy said that final paperwork would be signed to complete the deal early next week.

The Johns Hopkins medical system has been steadily expanding its reach. It operates Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in East Baltimore, as well as Howard County General Hospital in Columbia.

In addition, the system struck a merger deal with Suburban Hospital in Bethesda last year. A merger with All Children's Hospital & Health System in Tampa, Fla., first announced in July, is expected to close next month, according to a Hopkins spokesman.

The acquisitions "permit Hopkins to realize a regional integrated network of high-quality health-care facilities that serve residents in their communities," Hopkins spokesman John Lazarou said in a statement. There are currently no further acquisition plans beyond what's been publicly announced, he said.

The recession has driven some mergers, as hospitals struggled financially and banded together to weather the downturn. More than 50 hospital mergers happened in 2009, according to Irving Levin Associates, and more than two dozen have been announced this year.

A public hearing on the matter was held earlier this month, a Washington Department of Health spokeswoman said.

Sibley will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Hopkins Medicine. No money will be exchanged as part of the deal, Roy said. The Washington hospital would retain its name and staff would remain the same, she said, although Hopkins plans to hire more primary-care physicians.

"We will be able to take advantage of some of the resources that Hopkins can bring to the table," she said, including clinical trials.

Johns Hopkins is also a center for geriatric research, which complements the direct care to seniors offered at Sibley's assisted living centers and Alzheimer's unit, the spokeswoman said. "We have a lot of experience caring for geriatric patients," she said. "To combine the two is something that is appealing."

Sibley is set to open a new medical office building as well as a new all-private-room hospital on its campus.

This deal puts Hopkins in the midst of a competitive market among top-flight medical schools, such as Georgetown and George Washington, said Joshua Nezmoff, a hospital mergers and acquisitions consultant based in New Hope, Pa.

"You've got some very high-quality hospitals that are already in Washington," he said. "Hopkins is going to a marketplace where there's already a certain amount of quality."

However, Hopkins' strong brand will certainly attract patients, he said, because quality of services will improve, as well as the number of services offered. Patients will also be able to drive directly to the main hospital in Baltimore within about an hour, he said.

"They're going to get patients just because they're Hopkins," he said. "I think it's great for the consumers, great for the people in Washington that need care."

liz.kay@baltsun.com

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