E. Liverpool hospital to merge with HMHP

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – One of the last privately owned hospitals in the Valley is joining forces with a larger company.

Humility of Mary Health Partners (HMHP) announced late Thursday they entered into a letter of intent to fully integrate with River Valley Health Partners (RVHP), which operates East Liverpool City Hospital.

In a news release received just before midnight Thursday, RVHP President and CEO Kenneth Cochran said the hospital’s board of trustees made an “exhaustive” search for a partner that would provide financial stability for the hospital and quality care.

“The reality is that RVHP will able to serve more patients in more ways with HMHP by its side,” said Cochran. “The community’s interest has always been and will always be our top priority.”

Board of Trustees Chair Pete Wicks said while East Liverpool City Hospital does not have a religious sponsor, the Catholic principals espoused by HMHP are consistent with the core values of the hospital. To read the complete Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, click here.

“If operational changes are required during this transition, whether for religious purposes or otherwise, the board of trustees and administrators are committed to sharing and managing the changes as effectively as possible,” said Wicks.

The news release did not detail what those operational changes might be.

While some were caught off guard by the news on Friday, others admit they have some serious concerns.

Leaders with both the privately-run hospital and Humility of Mary Health Partners, which operates St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown and St. Joseph Health Center in Warren, say the agreement will give East Liverpool some much needed financial help.

However, others worry about the impact the merger will have on the small community of East Liverpool.

“I’ve had some concerns over the last few years. We’ve been talking about mergers and buy-ins and buyouts, and I’ve always had some concerns about what’s going to happen to the hospital and is it going to continue to serve the needs of the community,” said Dr. Vern Orland, a family practice physician. “I would like to make sure and see that we are allowed to maintain some local control over the local operations of this hospital and how we are going to be able to serve the community. I don’t want to be dictated by another entity.”

Union leaders for the 200 members of the Service Employees International Union who work at East Liverpool Hospital were unaware of the deal before Friday, but said they are looking forward to learning more about it.

“East Liverpool City Hospital has been looking for some time for someone to give them some financial viability. They have had a number of issues over the years, where they were trying to find ways to increase revenue and find ways to stay viable. And as a person who grew up and lived in East Liverpool pretty much my whole life, I think this kind of investment in my hometown is a good thing,” said Anthony Caldwell, spokesman for SEIU Local 1199.

No one from either corporation was willing to say anymore about the deal, including what changes might be made as a result of the proposed merger. The final merger is expected to occur this summer pending regulatory approval.

As part of the merger, a RVHP Health Care Foundation will be established to serve the health care needs of the poor and those with limited resources. The foundation should be operational by the end of 2014, according to the news release.

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