MANSFIELD — An affiliation agreement between MedCentral Health System and OhioHealth becomes official March 1, a move officials say will foster growth, additional health care services and jobs.
Employees at both MedCentral/Mansfield and MedCentral/Shelby hospitals will have their jobs guaranteed for at least a year from the closing date, according to the agreement, said David Eichinger, chairman of the MedCentral Board of Directors.
“With an organization of this size, one of the things at the top of the list for our board was as much certainty as possible for employees, but also the whole design of this endeavor was all about growth,” Eichinger said.
Eichinger said over time, the local health system expects an employment increase.
Mike Louge, executive vice president of OhioHealth, said the group has made a firm commitment for those 2,400 jobs for the next year. All MedCentral employees have been given the one-year commitment, he said.
“Our plans are to grow MedCentral to make it more of a hub that draws people from the region. That successful strategy would actually lead to more jobs there,” Louge said.
Louge said OhioHealth is excited about the opportunity.
“We’re thankful for the confidence the local leaders have placed in OhioHealth to make health care in Mansfield and north central Ohio better, he said. “We relish that opportunity and the challenge.”
Officials said more than 20 new primary care physicians will be brought into Richland County during the next three years.
“Part of this agreement is a recruiting plan by OhioHealth for new physicians,” Eichinger said. “... We expect to grow cardiology, grow orthopedics, grow oncology, grow neurosciences, along with other product lines. This whole process was about never being less than we are today.”
MedCentral went shopping for an affiliation with a much larger hospital system during 2013 — and by May, settled on the OhioHealth network.
That’s when the two hospital groups signed a letter of intent to make MedCentral Health System a full member of OhioHealth, a growing hospital network founded in Columbus.
In December, OhioHealth and MedCentral signed the affiliation agreement, which will enable MedCentral to become a full member of the OhioHealth on March 1. MedCentral Health System will become the third-largest hospital in the OhioHealth system, Eichinger said.
The Ohio Attorney General’s office is expected to give the nod of approval in February on the agreement, culminating a 60-day waiting period. A document pertaining to the new affiliation the News Journal obtained from the attorney general’s office outlines how a new MedCentral Legacy Group, a nonprofit corporation, has been formed locally. It’s 12 members will work to guarantee the affiliation happens as planned. Eichinger called the board an accountability action to ensure MedCentral Health System gets what it sought in negotiations.
The MedCentral Health System Board of Directors will lend $250,000 to the new legacy group, according to the affiliation agreement. The money would be available only for the legacy group’s legal and other costs associated with the enforcement of OhioHealth’s obligations found in the affiliation agreement, should a breach of the terms of the affiliation agreement occur.
“We don’t expect that it’s (the new affiliation) going to be an issue,” Eichinger said. “This money will be returned to the MedCentral Health System down the road.”
Eichinger said MedCentral Health System had to file documents with the federal government before submitting the affiliation documents to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The lengthy and detailed agreement being reviewed by the attorney general’s office is not a public document, and will be sealed at closing, according to a spokeswoman for the Ohio attorney general.
Building in works
Eichinger said before closing the deal, the MedCentral Board of Directors wants to have construction contracts completed on a new 56,838-square-foot medical office building being built on the MedCentral/Mansfield Hospital property off Glessner Avenue. The project is something MedCentral Health System and CEO Joe Chamberlain have been working on for two years. Chamberlain said the project includes the 56,838 square feet of new construction and 26,491 square feet of renovation. The new building will be off to the right of the hospital’s front doors. Handicapped parking is being moved to make way for the building.
Chamberlain said the first floor of the new office building will contain the MedCentral Orthopedic Institute.
“We negotiated we did not want to close until those are in place and we know exactly what the timeline is and when the shovel is going in the ground, which we really expect to be immediately upon closing,” Eichinger said Wednesday. The new building will have 12 surgery suites and specialty lines, including heart, women’s care, cancer, emergency services and neurosciences, all under one roof.
Dr. Gregory Eaton of Mid-Ohio Heart Clinic earlier in the week said the third and fourth floors of the new medical office building will be earmarked for the OhioHealth Heart and Vascular Institute. Mid-Ohio Heart Clinic staff and physicians will move to the new building once it is complete.
Mid-Ohio Hearth Clinic, 680 Park Avenue West, last week signed papers to affiliate with OhioHealth. The affiliation becomes final Feb. 17.
Louge said the new building is the first investment local residents will see in Mansfield.
“The other visible thing you will see is the commitment we’ve made to recruit new physicians to the market,” he said.
“Part of the plan is potentially a parking garage,” Eichinger said. “This is a big project.
“... Everything about OhioHealth has just been up front and very easy to work with,” said Eichinger, who will become an ex-officio member of the OhioHealth Board of Trustees for the next three years. He will be one of seven non-voting members on the 20-member board.
Friday, David P. Blom, president and chief executive officer of OhioHealth, said OhioHealth is looking at this affiliation as a true partnership.
“It’s clearly going to be one plus one equals three,” Blom said. “This is going to help us grow. It is going to be synergistic. Mansfield is a great community and we want to help the community, help the organization strive. I feel confident we will be able to do that.
“We were up last week and met with their senior team. As Mike (Louge) said, our values, how we feel about how health care is delivered is very, very similar,” Blom said.
Blom said OhioHealth wants to make Mansfield a regional hub for heart and vascular care.
Eichinger said he could not comment on significant capital investments OhioHealth will make over the next three years until the two boards close the deal.
“It’s all about doing more here,” he said. OhioHealth will release more detailed plans to the public after the closing occurs.
“It’s exciting news for north central Ohio,” Eichinger said. “This has been all about growth from the start. I couldn’t feel better that we found a way to secure high-quality health care. ... I’m glad I can say I was part of the process to secure that for the next 100 years.”
The MedCentral Health System board chairman said Galion-based Avita Health System’s expanding presence into Ontario can only make health care services better for the north central Ohio region.
MedCentral was founded in 1995, after the former Mansfield General Hospital and Shelby Memorial Hospital merged. It added to its services, with an urgent care walk-in center, imaging center and other satellite sites. The health care system remained Richland County-based and run by a local nonprofit board.
OhioHealth is primarily Columbus-based. It includes Riverside Methodist Hospital, Grant Medical Center (the original flagship hospital) and Doctors Hospital in Columbus; Dublin Methodist Hospital; Marion General Hospital; Grady Memorial Hospital in Delaware County; Hardin Memorial Hospital in Hardin County; and Doctors Hospital in Nelsonville. More than 20 other health care facilities, including surgery centers, are in the OhioHealth system as well.
MedCentral officials also looked into affiliating with OSU Hospitals in Columbus and University Hospitals in Cleveland. But MedCentral already had some connections with OhioHealth established in 2010, to share some supply chain services to lower the cost of health care delivery.
Another result for patients, OhioHealth officials said, would be “seamless” transfer for specialized services some patients might need at OhioHealth’s other member hospitals.