Officials at Hopkins work out merger plan Hospital, medical school to bolster joint panel


Trustees of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions -- the university's medical school and the Johns Hopkins Hospital -- fleshed out details yesterday of their recently announced plan to make the two East Baltimore units function as one.

The new structure strengthens a panel led by the university president that will supervise a senior medical officer, a new position announced last week. The members of that panel will be trustees from the university and the hospital and will be responsible for overseeing all medical matters for Hopkins.

Since the Hopkins bequest created them more than a century ago, the university and the hospital have been separate, with parallel presidents and trustee boards. But pressures in the health care marketplace for cost reductions have prompted the two institutions to work more closely together as they seek greater revenue and more patients. Hopkins officials say the new structure moves the hospital and university closer than ever.

"It's not us, anymore, and them. It's us," James A. Block, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, told hospital employees this week.

The move comes roughly a month after some medical professors, particularly in the research field, expressed concern that the twin departures of medical school officials would allow the hospital to dominate decision-making. Those concerns became most strongly expressed as objections to Dr. Block's leadership, but trustees yesterday reaffirmed the presence of Dr. Block and other officials now in place.

"All the individuals and titles thereof are in place," said George L. Bunting, chairman of the Hopkins hospital board of trustees. "There's no attempt to micromanage or change the organization as it moves forward."

At the top of the new arrangement will be a strengthened board of 40 to 45 trustees called Johns Hopkins Medicine, with roughly equal numbers of hospital trustees and university trustees. Johns Hopkins Medicine will delegate much business to a 16-member operating committee, which will have the university president as its permanent chairman.

As approved Sunday by the university board and yesterday by the hospital board, the medical school, officially part of the university, and the hospital and health system will report to the new senior medical officer. That person will then report to the operating committee.

Trustees acknowledged that the new system might sound bureaucratic and warned that it was still evolving, but Hopkins executives said they were confident the structure would lead the medical center into the next century on solid financial footing.

"We will be able to present ourselves as a decisive body, a unified body with an effective voice," Dr. Block said yesterday. "This step that we are taking now will put us right in front. We're going to be better positioned than any of our colleagues around the country to move rapidly."

Trustees also said they were working to complete searches as soon as possible for a new president, senior medical officer and dean of the medical school.

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