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UMMS to close on St. Joseph acquisition Dec. 1

The University of Maryland Medical System said Wednesday that it expects to complete its acquisition of St. Joseph Medical Center on Dec. 1, nearly a year after the Towson hospital sought a buyer as it looked to recover from the fallout of one of its doctors performing unnecessary cardiac procedures.

The new entity, to be called The University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, will take over operations of the 2,000-employee hospital pending final federal regulatory approval. The two entities first announced merger plans in March.

The merger could represent a new start for St. Joseph, which suffered revenue, patient and staff losses after its star cardiologist, Dr. Mark Midei, was accused of placing stents in the arteries of hundreds of patients who may not have needed them.

Former state Sen. Francis X. Kelly, a UMMS board member who will chair the board of the new entity, said being under the UMMS umbrella will give the hospital a sense of stability. He said UMMS plans to reinvigorate the cardiac program that nearly brought the hospital down.

"I am convinced we'll take that hospital and build on its strengths and fill the holes that are there and take it to the next level," said Kelly, who worked on negotiations with St. Joseph and had 10 grandchildren delivered at the hospital. "I think the potential for St. Joseph is unlimited."

St. Joseph's current chairman, Edward Gilliss, will become vice chairman of the new board. UMMS expects to announce the CEO of the new entity Thursday.

The Midei case led to turmoil at St. Joseph, which faced millions of dollars in lawsuits, a federal investigation, revenue declines and a drain of doctors and patients. Kelly said the hospital is losing $3 million a month and it may take some time to improve its finances.

Midei has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he did nothing inappropriate and that doctors across the country have recommended stents in similar circumstances. He said St. Joseph and its owner, Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, used him as a scapegoat as the hospital faced scrutiny from federal authorities.

Employees began receiving information Thursday about their employment status at the new organization. Some workers will remain employed at St. Joseph, while others will become employees of UMMS.

UMMS won the bidding competition over two other finalists, LifeBridge Health, which owns Sinai and Northwest hospitals, and Ascension Health, which owns Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore.

St. Joseph will join a system that has been expanding rapidly over the past decade, using its reputation and strong finances to lure smaller community hospitals.

The aggressive expansion has enabled UMMS to double in size to 12 hospitals in the past six years, expanding its reach to almost every corner of the state.

Robert A. Chrencik, president and CEO of UMMS, told The Baltimore Sun in December when the hospital system was bidding for St. Joseph that the Towson facility's financial situation was troubling but that his system had the "medical horsepower" to turn it around.

He said it would allow the University of Maryland to move into a part of the state where it doesn't have a presence. Many Maryland graduates practice at St. Joseph, and Chrencik said Maryland's strong cardiovascular, orthopedic and cancer practices would fill voids at St. Joseph.

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