Medical companies combine efforts

Theresa Montgomery

Robinson Memorial Hospital is joining forces with Summa Health System.

Portage County’s hospital and the Akron-based health care provider are establishing a non-profit Joint Operating Company to enhance services to the community and increase efficiency in the face of rising health care costs.

“It’s truly a win-win,” Tom Strauss, president and CEO of Summa Health System, said. “I think we’re both on the verge of starting to duplicate services that are in somewhat rare supply. So we’re excited about it.”

Summa Robinson Health Ventures, the Joint Operating Company, will become effective Jan. 1, 2007. Under the agreement, Summa will no longer provide services in the region on its own. Summa Robinson Health Ventures will allow health care in the community to be additive, rather than competitive, Strauss said.

Summa was on the verge of putting in a new, medically based fitness center in Kent, Strauss said. They will do that now in partnership with Robinson at Robinson’s Devon Place facility on state Route 43.

Robinson and Summa are working together to expand psychiatric services for Portage County’s only hospital. Working through the emergency department at Robinson, patients needing further treatment would be transferred to St. Thomas Hospital in Akron for psychiatric care.

“More providers ought to be thinking in this direction,” Strauss said. “I wish others would see what we are doing and model it. Health care is getting more and more expensive in this country, and it’s important that we continue to find ways to provide excellent resources, but also reduce our costs.”

The seven-member board of directors at Summa Robinson Health Ventures will be comprised of four board members from Summa and three from Robinson. Six of the seven board members, a supermajority vote, must approve any action the joint operating company takes.

There will be no transfer of ownership. Robinson will remain a county-owned hospital, retaining its name, logo, and employees, Stephen Colecchi, president and CEO of Robinson Memorial Hospital, said.

“I think this agreement gives Robinson Memorial Hospital the best opportunity to maintain local control,” he said, “but at the same time gain all the advantages of being part of a larger system.”

Colecchi, who will continue to serve as Robinson’s president and CEO, said he is not aware of any similar agreement in which a county-owned hospital has entered into a joint operating contract with a not-for-profit health care system.

“We felt that it made sense to do this now from a position of strength,” Colecchi said. “At the present time, Robinson has an excellent market position. However, the real question is can a county-owned community hospital the size of Robinson survive, long-term.”

Colecchi and Strauss began talking a year ago about ways to enhance services in the community together. They conducted a lengthy and careful analysis of the health system and the needs of the community, Strauss said.

“It’s crazy to develop competitive offerings,” Straus said. “To duplicate resources in this community is really unacceptable.”

Contact public affairs reporter Theresa Montgomery at [email protected].