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Published: Monday, 10/27/2003

Hearing to discuss merger of hospitals

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Leaders of Toledo's two children's hospitals will get a chance today to sound off on a recent proposal to combine the resources of their hospitals - an idea pushed by many of their own physicians.

Hospital executives, physicians, and others will discuss the idea during today's Toledo City Council health and community relations committee hearing. The city can't force the hospitals to combine resources, but city officials said they want to get the issue some more attention.

The proposal was kicked off by a group of pediatricians, pediatric specialists, and other physicians who formed a group, Physicians for the Effective Delivery of Services, or PEDS. The group, which now has 131 physicians, said the diseases that affect children are more rare than adult diseases and dividing up a small pediatric population among two children's hospitals hurts the overall quality of care. They insist it makes more sense to put all pediatric resources in one location.

Toledo is the smallest metropolitan area in the country with more than one children's hospital. The area is served by Toledo Children's Hospital, located within Toledo Hospital, and Mercy Children's Hospital, located within St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

PEDS, which has independent physicians as well as physicians affiliated with both hospitals, originally said it was open to locating a hospital in one or the other facilities as long as it had an independent board. Now, the group says it feels a freestanding children's hospital on neutral ground makes the most sense.

PEDS officials spoke out about their plans in August, but hospital officials remained mostly silent about the doctors' efforts. In advance of today's hearing, hospital administrators responded last week to the PEDS effort.

Jan McBride, president of ProMedica-owned Toledo Children's Hospital, said a freestanding facility doesn't make economic sense. She said such a facility would cost at least $1 million per bed to build, and $600,000 per bed annually to operate. Her hospital has an annual operating cost per bed of $480,000, she said.

She said her hospital, which opened in 1993, serves the community well and there's no need to alter that arrangement significantly. She said the hospital remains “ready to partner, on this campus.” Going off site is not an option, she said.

“We think and believe we are the children's hospital in this community,” she said, noting that her facility is the only one that meets the state's definition of a children's hospital.

The main criterion of that definition is that a children's hospital must have 150 beds. Toledo Children's has 151. Hospital officials said it's a coincidence their hospital has just one more than the definition.

Dick Evens, cqpresident of Mercy Children's Hospital, which opened in 1998, said the 150-bed definition isn't relevant to the debate.

Mr. Evens said Mercy is willing to discuss alternatives to the current two-hospital situation. Like Ms. McBride, he said he doubts a freestanding facility makes economic sense. But he said other options include: eliminating one of the hospitals; sharing specialists; joint recruitment; joint investment, and combining resources on education.



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