UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - After a three year process, Utica's two hospitals are now affiliated.
Faxton St. Luke's Healthcare (FSLH) and St. Elizabeth Medical Center (SEMC) are now governed by one board, the board of the Mohawk Valley Health System, or MVHS.
The President and C.E.O. of the new entity is Scott Perra, who was previously the President and C.E.O. of FSLH.
Meanwhile, President and C.E.O. of St. Elizabeth Medical Center Richard Ketcham is retiring on Tuesday after more than 26 years in that position.
Perra, along with the Chairman of the Board of Directors of MVHS, Oneida County Supreme Court Judge Norm Siegel, who was the Chairman of the Board of Directors at St. Elizabeth Medical Center, held a press conference Thursday morning to announce that the state and federal government granted the approval of the affiliation.
Perra says the two hospitals began being run under one umbrella at 10:00 Thursday morning, just as the press conference began.
Perra says the affiliation process was a lengthy one, "We had to work with the Federal Trade Commission, we've had to work with the New York State Attorney General's Office, we've had to work with the New York State Office of Mental Health because both hospitals offer in-patient psychiatric units."
Perra added that although the boards of the two hospitals both agreed long ago that an affiliation was in the best interest of both hospitals, as well as the residents of the Mohawk Valley, the two sides were not allowed to talk during the approval process about their future together because they were competing hospitals until the approval was finalized, "We've been prohibited from understanding strategic issues from both organizations literally up until today, at 10:00 this morning, so now we can start to work on a new strategic plan for the new system."
Perra says, now the work begins. When asked whether there would be any job losses due to a duplication of services, he said possibly some in the business and administrative side, but as far as the clinical side, it will be a while before MVHS has a strategic business plan, "We're going to look at things as we like to say, 'farthest from the patient first', so we will be looking at some of the business functions. Are there are some economies to scale and efficiencies we can get there by combining things?
"Clearly, IT, Information Technology, is something we need to get our arms around, and relatively quickly, although the solution to this is going to be relatively costly long term because we both do operate separate and distinct. Clinical information is stored on electronic media, it's rare that we're doing paper charts anymore."
Perra says he hopes in the long run, there won't be a net job loss, but rather a net job gain, "We're hoping to grow some new services and actually employ more people over time as we grow the business model for ourselves, so it may be a redeployment of people's responsibilities and duties from one position to a different position, you know we're not coming together just to reduce staff going forward."
Perra says he also does not see any possibility of merging the emergency departments. He says neither department can handle the 18,000 total admissions each year between the two hospitals, "We'd literally be shuffling people back and forth everyday, dozens of people for admissions, so that's probably not the best care for people. So I don't see it in the short term for sure."
So will area residents see any immediate changes due to the affiliation? Perra says no, "No there won't be any change the patient will see as a result of this activation of the Mohawk Valley Health System for the foreseeable future, again, until we sit down with our medical staffs and plan out what the clinical profile is going to look like for these two campuses, nothing's going to change from that perspective."
Judge and Chairman Siegel says It's important that everybody understand that what's happening now, had to happen, "Medical care and the way medical care is being paid for and taken care of by governmental entities to a large degree, is changing, and changing dramatically. If both hospitals hadn't decided to affiliate I think there's a strong likelihood within the foreseeable future we may not have had any hospitals."
Siegel says he is proud of the way all sides worked together for the common good of the Mohawk Valley, "We both put our private egos aside, we both put our personal cultures aside that we've had, in order to combine them into one entity which is going to be able to go forward and provide the very, very best medical care for the people in this community in the near future, and the long future."