May 1 marked a new era for healthcare in St. Francois County.
The agreement to transition ownership of Mineral Area Regional Medical Center became final between BJC HealthCare of St. Louis and Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tennessee.
Signs on the hospital show it is now operating as part of Parkland Health Center, a member of BJC HealthCare – one of three facilities in the county.
The Farmington facilities will be known as Parkland Health Center – Weber Road and Parkland Health Center – Liberty Street. The group also operates the three-bed critical access hospital in Bonne Terre and, together, all three will provide inpatient and outpatient services to the residents of St. Francois County and surrounding areas with more than 160 associated physicians, according to the press release on the finalization of the merger.
Parkland Health Center was formed in 1992 as a result of the merger of two formerly independent community hospitals in St. Francois County – Bonne Terre Hospital and Farmington Community Medical Center (formerly known as Farmington Community Hospital) – and would become part of the former Christian Health Services system.
One year after the merger of the Bonne Terre and Farmington hospitals, Christian Health Services, Barnes Hospital and Jewish Hospital announced the merger of their operations and the new entity became known as the BJC Health System – now BJC HealthCare.
Tom Karl, president of Parkland Health Center, was spending Friday at Parkland Health Center -Weber Road – visiting with staff at the newest facility.
This is not the first time Karl has been a part of a change for local healthcare. He was on the staff at Farmington Community Hospital in 1992 when it was purchased by Christian Health Services.
“In some ways, it’s a little bittersweet. I’ve been talking to a lot of (staff at Parkland – Weber Road) who have been here for 25, 30, 35-plus years,” Karl said, shortly after Friday’s announcement. He acknowledging that “change is never an easy thing” and the current healthcare climate creates a challenging environment for smaller hospitals.
A press release announcing the finalization of the merger mentioned healthcare reform, continued reductions to reimbursement and continued increases in uncompensated care – due to part to the lack of Medicaid expansion in Missouri – as contributing factors for that environment.
“Our hospitals have served those living in St. Francois and the surrounding counties for many years,” Karl stated in the press release. “These two organizations are home to numerous employees and medical staff who have shown compassion to their neighbors, friends, and family during trying times of illness or injury, or helping to celebrate the birth of a child.
“This is good news for our community in this time of unprecedented change and increasing health care costs. Combining these organizations will bring stability which is necessary to continue providing exceptional care to patients living in our community.”
On May 1, Karl said he met with community leaders during the days leading up to the finalization of the merger and planned to meet with the leadership teams of the combined hospitals and additional community leaders this week.
He added some former members of the Board of Directors for Mineral Area Regional Medical Center are now a part of the Parkland Health Center board.
“(During those meetings) I always go back to the conversation we had 60 days ago (when the merger was announced) in that all of us remember why this is happening and why it is happening now,” Karl said. “It is a much bigger issue than just Farmington and the two hospitals.
“When you take a look at the national economic climate and the state of the nation in terms of how our debt and deficit affected healthcare. It’s such a big, big part of our national expenditure plan that there are huge changes that are just going to have to happen.”
Karl mentioned the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article which suggested Mineral Area Regional Medical Center lost money in 2013 while Parkland Health Center had positive results.
“That’s not the case,” Karl said. “Both hospitals have been losing money in the past few years and the volumes have declined such that we will have to take a look at combining services.
“Folks involved in healthcare today understand the situation. It doesn’t make it any easier, but people do understand what is going on.”
Karl said it is important for everyone to look ahead at the progress of healthcare in the area while honoring the tradition the facilities have brought to the region.
“We need to celebrate our past but go down this road looking out the front window and try to build something that is solid for the community going forward, something the community can be proud of,” he said. “We’re setting our sights on what’s ahead in a very positive way.”
After the announcement of the merger was made earlier this year, Katie Rhodes, president of Parkland Healthcare’s board of directors, said the merger showed the tradition of serving the community will continue.
“In our area, BJC has invested almost $80 million in capital improvements after becoming affiliated with Parkland, not to mention the extensive investment they’ve made in their people,” she said. “That is exactly the kind of healthcare leader we want to have in our community. They are committed to our community, they invest in our community, and this transaction further solidifies their commitment to our community.”