ECH, WellSpan will officially join forces

By on September 18, 2013

By:

DENA REEDY Review Staff

, Staff Writer

After more than a year of discussions, the Ephrata Community Hospital and WellSpan Health will finally join forces.

Plans have been finalized and the two health care organizations plan to affiliate Oct. 1 as a means to address changes in health care and improve the health of individuals and communities across Adams and York counties and parts of Lancaster County, according to a press release.

According to John M. Porter Jr., president and CEO of Ephrata Community Hospital, and Bruce M. Bartels, president of WellSpan Health, this step follows more than a year of due diligence by both community boards of directors and senior leaders, as well as government reviews.

Porter will remain president of Ephrata Community Hospital and will immediately join WellSpan’s senior management team as a senior vice president.

Some things will remain the same.

"Ephrata Community Hospital’s name will not be changing," said Joanne Eshelman, director of community relations at Ephrata Hospital. "Over time, we will begin to align the hospital’s identity with WellSpan Health."

Ephrata Hospital has about 1,900 employees in locations across the community.

"Because WellSpan and Ephrata Community Hospital serve different geographic areas and patient populations, we do not anticipate a reduction in clinical staff," Eshelman said. "We will begin a thoughtful, careful process of integrating staff and operations of select administrative support functions. It is possible that this integration will affect some positions, but at this point it’s too soon to predict how, and to what extent."

Also regarding shift changes, Eshelman said she has not heard anything.

"Our goal has been, and will continue to be, to make our services convenient and accessible for our patients," she said.

There will not be any major changes right away.

"Our integration into the WellSpan system will be gradual, as we identify needs and work with WellSpan to address those needs," Eshelman said. "There will not be major changes right away, but we look forward to telling you more as the relationship evolves."

Eshelman said annually WellSpan invests approximately $70 million in capital across its local communities, supporting efforts to increase access to care and enhancing quality of care.

"Ephrata Community Hospital will be integrated into the capital planning and budgeting process immediately," she said. "Through that process, capital funding for strategic initiatives at Ephrata will be determined."

The first phase of WellSpan Health and Ephrata Community Hospital’s integration efforts will focus on the staff and operations of select administrative support functions as well as health care services that are delivered in the physician office and home settings, the press release said. These transitions will likely occur in the first 24 to 36 months.

By aligning the talents and competencies of both organizations, Ephrata Community Hospital and WellSpan Health seek to:

*Improve health across Central Pennsylvania while enhancing local systems of care in northern and eastern Lancaster County, Adams County and York County. WellSpan will support the implementation of Ephrata Community Hospital’s long range strategic plan, which will enhance access to high quality health care in the communities of Lancaster County.

* Maintain existing relationships and clinical partnerships with other local health care providers

* Enhance a model of care that is based on an individual’s relationship with a primary care physician who coordinates all the care an individual requires across the lifespan

* Offer stronger medical, nursing and allied health educational resources to address a projected shortage of physicians and health professionals.

"The American health care system has begun to transform from one that primarily treats individuals when they are sick or injured to one that also manages the health of populations," says Bartels. "In response, health care organizations across the country have begun to develop affiliations as a way to offer their communities the highest quality of care at an affordable cost."

According to Porter, "We share with WellSpan a vision of improving health outcomes, the patient experience and managing costs for all people, whether they are currently healthy, chronically ill or acutely ill. By working together to improve care at the local level, all of the communities that we serve will benefit."

Ephrata Community Hospital will continue to be governed by a local board of directors, which will have a formal relationship with the WellSpan Health Board of Directors. The Ephrata Community Hospital board will include members of the community, as well as representatives from the WellSpan Health board. WellSpan’s other organizational entities, which include the WellSpan Medical Group, WellSpan Specialty Services, WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital, WellSpan York Hospital and two philanthropic foundations are governed within this structure.

Ephrata Community Hospital, as well as WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital, WellSpan York Hospital and the WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital will operate under separate licenses and medical staffs. Ephrata Community Hospital has formed a philanthropic foundation, the Ephrata Community Health Foundation, which will cultivate local relationships and raise funds to address the health needs of Lancaster County communities. Community-based philanthropic foundations also exist in York County and Adams County.

Discussions between the two organizations began in spring 2012 and have involved senior management and volunteer board leadership.

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