Hopkins and GBMC form partnership

The Baltimore Sun

Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center announced yesterday an alliance that, among other things, puts Hopkins doctors in charge of cardiac care at the Towson hospital.

The five-year partnership, in the works for the past year and half, includes a joint pediatric surgery project and calls for exploration into possible clinical practice partnerships and shared satellite health care centers.

Cooperative research efforts that could help connect area residents with local clinical trials will also be discussed.

The alliance, one of several such partnerships announced this year, allows GBMC to benefit from Hopkins' prestige and expertise while maintaining its independence. Last week, U.S. News and World Report named Hopkins the country's best hospital for the 17th consecutive year.

In turn, the deal enables Hopkins to extend its reach in the region's suburbs, this time concentrating on "north Central Maryland," without building a new facility. It could also help funnel more patients who require complex treatments to Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore.

"In an era of intense competition for shrinking health care dollars, bold moves are required to ensure that Marylanders have superior access to cost-effective, high-quality health care," Ronald R. Peterson, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, said during a news conference yesterday. "That is really what our affiliation is all about."

In January two local Catholic hospitals, St. Agnes Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center, announced an alliance of their own.

And in March, Hopkins announced a similar partnership with Anne Arundel Medical Center. Hopkins already has a suburban presence in Baltimore County through its Green Spring Station outpatient center and in Howard County, where it owns Howard County General Hospital.

Its pediatric surgery collaboration with GBMC will expand the Baltimore County hospital's current services and allow patients to be referred to Hopkins physicians for complex procedures.

Under the new cardiology program, which launched yesterday, Hopkins doctors will manage GBMC's Cardiac Care Unit, overseeing emergency room cardiology services and supervising all heart-related inpatient and outpatient testing.

GBMC President and Chief Executive Officer Laurence M. Merlis said his physicians initially raised questions about the relationship, but that giving patients the best care overrides turf concerns.

"We felt that the strength of the Hopkins program will bring [GBMC's] to another level," Merlis said in an interview after the conference.

Neither Peterson nor Merlis could say what kind of financial commitment the deal might mean for either medical center, though both said they're committed to significant investment if needed.

William H. Conkling Jr., chairman of GBMC's board, said he and other directors cautiously weighed the proposition before choosing to move forward, asking whether it would be a mutual and durable relationship, if the institutions could align culturally, and how patients and the GBMC mission would be affected.

Ultimately, the board decided the partnership was in GBMC's best interests and unanimously approved it, though Conkling was careful to point out that the partnership was not a merger of the organizations or their assets, and preserved GBMC's "role as an individual community hospital."

The partnership - which provides for two successive, two-year, automatic renewals - will be managed by a joint planning group that will include Merlis and Peterson.

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

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