Civista signs pact to cede management

U. Md. system in charge

Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009

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The board of directors of Civista Health in La Plata signed an affiliation agreement with the University of Maryland Medical System that will bring state-of-the-art services and more doctors to the hospital.

The agreement was signed Oct. 2, said Noel Cervino, Civista's president and chief executive officer. The two-year agreement places the management of Civista Health, including the 130-bed Civista Medical Center in La Plata, under the direction of UMMS.

Under the terms of the agreement, UMMS will provide Civista Health administrative leadership, including the chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief medical officer. Civista will pay a monthly management fee to UMMS to cover the salaries and benefit costs for the three executives and their expenses, according to a Civista Health press release.

Cervino and Eric Boas, the hospital's chief financial officer will become employees of UMMS and will continue in their positions, according to the release. UMMS will also recruit a chief medical officer for Civista Health, Cervino said.

The affiliation with UMMS will provide a great service to the community, Cervino said.

"I believe the University of Maryland Medical System is the ideal choice because they have a record of successfully partnering with community-based health care providers in developing new medical services, they have a strong partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and are well positioned to provide support in strategic planning and marketing, clinical program development, physician recruitment, medical staff development and implementation of a continuous quality and the performance improvement process," Cervino said Monday. "They will also provide support for key management services in information technology, finance, supply chain management, group purchasing and human resources."

The most important aspect of the affiliation will enable Civista Health to attract interns and residents to the hospital who will hopefully decide to stay and practice medicine in Charles County once their studies are complete, said Sen. Thomas "Mac" Middleton (D-Charles).

The University of Maryland School of Medicine is affiliated with UMMS, he said.

"For Southern Maryland and Charles County this will be a particular benefit because we're so short of doctors here, especially primary care physicians," he said Monday. "Doctors who come to Charles County and Southern Maryland have a tendency to stay. That would be a plus for us."

"The top priority for Civista is to expand medical services, both primary care and specialties, in order to meet growing patient demands and expectations," Cervino said. "We especially need to recruit more physicians, both primary care and specialists, that will practice locally, and increase our resources and expertise in key management functions."

Cervino said the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center train more than half of the state's physicians.

Robert Chrencik, president and chief executive officer of UMMS, said the management agreement with Civista Health is another step forward in creating a statewide network of care. The affiliation with Civista Health will strengthen the community hospital during tough economic times and offer assistance in recruiting physicians and expertise in information technology and financial services, he said Tuesday.

"It's all about strengthening Civista in the long term," he said. "A relationship with a large academic hospital system can help Civista in a number of ways. … We're excited about this affiliation. It's a great way to form and test a partnership and it will hopefully lead to a closer relationship down the road."

The affiliation will be a good thing for Civista Health and the patients it serves, said Del. Murray D. Levy (D-Charles).

"UMMS has got a world class hospital system and they are also the ones who work with the Medevac system," he said. "We want Southern Maryland to have a shock trauma hospital and that could be one of the benefits of having this UMMS affiliation."

Hospitals that are in the system include facilities under the University of Maryland Medical Center such as the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, the Joseph and Corinne Schwartz Division of Transplantation, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building, the Homer Gudelsky Building and the University of Maryland Hospital for Children, according to the UMMS Web site. Other facilities in the system include the Kernan Hospital, University Specialty Hospital, Maryland General Hospital, Baltimore Washington Medical Center, Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, Shore Health System, Chester River Health System and Upper Chesapeake Health System.

Levy said affiliations such as the agreement between Civista Health and UMMS are becoming the norm throughout the state. Calvert Memorial Hospital in Prince Frederick has similar affiliations with the Washington Hospital Center and Georgetown University Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown recently signed an agreement with MedStar Health, according to hospital officials.

"Small hospitals have a lot of operating issues they have to deal with," he said. "It's expensive and a system like UMMS does this around the state. They do it more cheaply, which is a real benefit."

The affiliation agreement with Civista Health has an option to renew the management contract in two years by the consensus of both parties or to have UMMS assume all assets of Civista and operate it as a wholly-owned affiliate of UMMS, according to the press release. Any decision would be subject to the approval of the Civista Health and UMMS boards, said James Burke, chairman of Civista Health's board of directors, in the release.

"This agreement is an opportunity to strengthen our capabilities to meet this growing community's health needs by aligning with a health system that possesses the resources and scale to help us accomplish what we could not do alone," he said, adding Civista Medical Center and the Civista Health Foundation Health will continue to be controlled locally. "All foundation decisions will continue to be made by the foundation's local board and all fundraising will continue to be used for Civista Medical Center exclusively. The next two years will give us an opportunity to assess which of these choices best positions Civista Health to fulfill its mission to provide the finest in health care services to Charles County and the citizens of Southern Maryland."

Charles County commissioners' President F. Wayne Cooper (D) said the change in Civista because of the management affiliation with UMMS will take some time to get off the ground.

"It will be a gradual change," he said Monday. "There won't be any management changes … This will bring a lot of opportunities to our hospital. It will help prepare the county for the future with … state-of-the-art medical care and technology."