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Published: Monday, 9/22/2003

Lima heart center preps for breakup

LIMA, Ohio - Six years after the marriage of their cardiac programs into the Heart Center of West Ohio, Lima Memorial Hospital and St. Rita's Medical Center are getting a divorce.

The heart center will be dissolved by the end of the year and its administrative functions handled by the individual hospitals, executives for both hospitals said last week. The hospitals will continue to offer individual cardiac care.

The amicable dissolution, effective Dec. 19, will have no effect on physicians or patient care, officials said.

Mike Swick, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Lima Memorial, said the heart center was set up in 1997 primarily for administration and data collection while handling heart catheterizations.

The goal was to demonstrate the need for high-level cardiac care in a 10-county area of west-central Ohio to obtain a state certificate of need that would allow them to perform open-heart surgeries.

“The [heart center] was needed for the state requirement for volume and patient outcome,” Mr. Swick said.

The Ohio Department of Health required a hospital to perform at least 800 catheterizations a year, a target neither St. Rita nor Lima Memorial was able to reach individually, the hospitals said.

This year, the collaborative is on schedule to perform 4,000 heart catheterizations and 500 open-heart surgeries by the end of this year, Mr. Swick said, with the number divided fairly evenly between the facilities. The average cost of open-heart surgery in Lima is $32,000, Mr. Swick said.

Brian Smith, senior vice president for St. Rita's Medical Center, said the dissolution of the heart center will not affect those numbers.

Since the heart center's founding, the hospitals have performed a combined 2,680 open-heart surgeries, 3,818 angioplasties, and 14,242 cardiac catheterizations.

Most physicians, cardiologists, and the cardio-thoracic surgeons who perform the heart procedures have privileges at both hospitals that allow them to move freely between operating rooms.

“It'll be business as usual from the patients' perspective,” Mr. Smith said.

The heart center office handled administrative functions, follow-up care, and quality assurance.

Brenda Burgy-Schweizer, spokesman for St. Rita's, said both hospitals shared equally in the cost of the heart center.

After a particular procedure, the hospital pays a fee to the heart center. Once expenses were paid, the heart center splits the remaining money between the two organizations, she said.

The Lima facility gave west-central Ohio residents access to up-to-date heart care they previously had to obtain in Toledo, Columbus, or Dayton.

“Our draw is very strong in a 10-county area,” St. Rita's Mr. Smith said.

With the partnership no longer required, the two health organizations decided it was time to go their separate ways, Mr. Swick said.

“We more than surpassed our expectations,” he said.

Separating the administrative functions should be “cost neutral,” he said.

The eight heart center employees who work in the center's downtown office will be offered positions within the two hospitals.

The two Lima hospitals work collaboratively in a diabetic clinic, a partnership that will continue, Mr. Smith said. The diabetic center also operates in a free-standing facility.



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