MOUNT GILEAD — Morrow County Hospital will not change partnerships, despite an appearance at a recent town hall meeting by Avita Healthcare System officials.
Morrow County Hospital Board president Patrick Drouhard said last week that after 18 months of research, the hospital board passed a resolution May 8 to “enter into an Asset Purchase Agreement with Morrow County Hospital, OhioHealth Corporation, Morrow County Hospital Health Services, Inc. and OhioHealth Physician Group, Inc.”
Drouhard said the agreement turns over the four primary care physicians’ practices — and those physicians’ physical assets the hospital owns — to OhioHealth.
The agreement also states that if the hospital is unable to remain open, “Ohio Health will design, construct and operate an ambulatory healthcare facility in Morrow County.”
Drouhard said the action will boost Morrow County Hospital’s bottom line by $2 million annually. The reason is that under a current agreement, physicians are employed by the hospital at a cost of more than $2 million each year to operate primary care practices at Northfield, Cardinal Center, Cardington and Mount Gilead.
The move also keeps the hospital open going forward and gives OhioHealth the ability to recruit new doctors to replace current doctors as they leave or retire. Having the OhioHealth name, Drouhard said, will be an advantage in recruiting doctors.
Hector Torres, of ECG Management Consultants, explained the process that resulted in ECS recommending the board accept the OhioHealth agreement, rather than Avita, the other healthcare system that had shown an interest in having an association with Morrow County Hospital.
During a public question-and-answer session, some questioned why Avita was not more seriously considered. It was noted that Avita had brought in $140 million in revenue that was income that stayed in their communities. And Avita appears to be growing, while MCH under the leadership of Ohio Health has been shrinking.
Torres said the $140 million figure is exaggerated or questionable and that debt forAvita stood at $80 million. When the consultants “peeled back the layers of Avita’s financials,” they found OhioHealth to be stronger and more stable.
Dr. Grant Galbraith noted that “times have changed” for healthcare because there are more regulations and a need for more technology. Galbraith said support by a larger healthcare organization and that it is valuable to have the support of OhioHealth, where there already is a good relationship with physicians.
Avita Healthcare Systems CEO Jerry Morasko, along with five Avita physicians, five Avita board members and several Avita specialists stood for two hours outside a Morrow County Hospital Board meeting Tuesday, May 7. They hoped to give a presentation to the board concerning a possible collaboration or affiliation, but were never invited in to make their pitch. The Avita group was invited to the MCH board meeting by Morrow County Commissioners, who hoped to have the opportunity to present the Avita option.
Drouhard said he had no idea a large group was coming and had heard that only the Avita CEO might be present. He said the board had a full agenda already that involved hearing the proposal from OhioHealth.
While the board meeting was in session, outside the meeting room, Avita officials talked about the history and experience of Avita Healthcare with Morrow County Development Director Andy Ware and others. They explained that 10 years ago the Galion Hospital board chose to invest in their community by hiring Morasko. Two years later they purchased the bankrupt Bucyrus hospital and added it as part of the Galion Hospital. They then adopted the name Avita Health System. The staff has grown from 450 to more than 1,800 employees with the addition of Avita Hospital in Ontario.
“The hospital board has tried to do their due diligence in seeing how Morrow County Hospital grows with the county,” said Morrow County auditor Davies. “We are optimistic that the solution they came up with will support the economic growth of the county by supplying all of this community with health care that is top of the line.”