By Julie Sherwood
Rochester General Health System and Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic Friday announced an agreement that leads to a formal affiliation between the two health organizations.
Formalizing the affiliation is expected to take from three to six months. While Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic will maintain its name, keep its local board and continue providing medical care, it will also provide additional treatments and services, the health systems said. Patients will have access to offerings through the Rochester system’s nationally recognized programs and providers that include the Sands-Constellation Heart Institute and RGHS’s state-of-the-art clinical and electronic medical records technology. RGHS also plans to support recruitment of physicians to Clifton Springs.
Dr. Lew Zulick, interim chief executive officer for Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic, stated partnering with RGHS made sense based on developments at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital. Since 2007, when RGHS began integrating its health system with Newark-Wayne, that rural hospital has cared for a growing number of residents locally due to expansion of clinical services, experiencing a 39 percent increase in acute care discharges, a 25 percent increase in emergency department traffic, and a 93 percent increase in surgeries. At the same time, the hospital reduced its expected mortality index by more than half, Zulick stated. He added that Newark-Wayne also added 150 physicians during that period.
“We are impressed by the growth and quality improvements at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital following its affiliation with RGHS,” Zulick stated.
Friday’s announcement mirrors a trend among hospitals and healthcare systems nationwide. Pressure continues on community hospitals affected by changes in the business of health care, and fewer can commit to providing a wide breadth of specialized services.
In June of 2012, University of Rochester Medical Center and Thompson Health signed an agreement making Thompson an affiliate of URMC. The formal affiliation created additional places where patients can go for a wider range of treatments in the Canandaigua area. The formal partnership also broadened what Thompson offers in medical and surgical specialties that include cardiology, neurosurgery, oncology and imaging.
Mark Clement, RGHS president and chief executive officer, stated that affiliating with Clifton will “enable RGHS to continue its progress toward building a regional integrated health care delivery system focused on improving quality, efficiency, affordability and patient access, as well as managing and improving the health of the population.”
Clement added that the financial pressure on smaller rural hospitals “is resulting in closures across the country and even in our own backyard.”
“In the face of health care reform, forward-thinking rural hospitals are increasingly choosing to align with larger-scale health care systems that can provide the experience and highly specialized expertise necessary to deal with this rapid change and the dizzying array of new issues and challenges, offer them depth of clinical specialties and technology, and enable them to achieve efficiencies while staying focused on providing personalized care to their patients,” Clement stated.
The effect the affiliation will have on staffing at Clifton remains unclear, according to Maura Snyder, the hospital’s director of development. “Once affiliation plans are finalized, we will have a better understanding of any potential employee impact,” she said in an email.
As far as staffing changes that have already taken place at Clifton, Snyder said, “it’s no secret that most rural hospitals are experiencing a decline in patient census, and we had to take painful steps to right size.”
She added the affiliation promises to be good for the community: “Patients can expect an expansion of clinical services that are important to our community and to the growth of our hospital.”