By Kyle LoJacono
University Community Health (UCH) and the Adventist Health System (AHS) have completed the merger that started months ago when the two signed a letter of intent to combine the two healthcare systems.
The merger will create one organization with 43 hospitals, combining the 37 from AHS including Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, UCH’s five and the future Wesley Chapel Medical Center that was to be jointly owned by the two.
The companies began work on the first full-service hospital in Wesley Chapel in 2007, which will be located north of the intersection of SR 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. A joint press release from UCH and AHS after the letter was signed in March states the companies’ relationship strengthened as a result of the joint venture and prompted the boards of both organizations to explore full merger possibilities.
“AHS and UCH are committed to enhancing the accessibility and quality of medical care to the Tampa Bay area,” AHS president and CEO Don Jernigan said. “Long term planning is essential to the success of healthcare systems and we believe our patients, employees and communities will all be blessed from bringing these systems together.”
The merger was completed after UCH president/CEO Norm Stein retired Aug. 31.
“After working so closely together on the joint venture for the past three years, we have decided to explore opportunities that allow (us) to deliver heightened healthcare services to our expanding patient population,” Stein said previously. “It helps that we already are working together and have like-minded missions that stress patient-centered services.”
The first act of the new board was to appoint current Florida Hospital Zephyrhills president and CEO John Harding to the same position for the Tampa Bay region. He will oversee the Zephyrhills facility, the future Wesley Chapel center and the newly acquired facilities in Tampa and Tarpon Springs.
Taking over for Harding as Florida Hospital Zephyrhills’ CEO and president is Douglas Duffield, who was the hospital’s chief operating officer. Duffield currently lives in San Antonio.
“Doug has proven that he has the leadership skills, the vision and the sense of mission that will enable Florida Hospital Zephyrhills to continue on its journey to provide the most comprehensive and compassionate healthcare services to our patients and the communities we serve,” Harding said.
AHS committed $125 million in capital investments, $10 million to UCH’s Foundation and also agreed to take on UCH’s debt.
AHS is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church and was established in 1973. It already had the most hospitals of any nonprofit protestant health care company in the United States, but Florida Hospital Zephyrhills was the only facility in the Tampa Bay area.
Christine Stewart, spokeswomen AHS, said the merger gives the organization an opportunity to grow on the relationships UCH has in the bay area. She added there are no plans to layoff personnel so the company can maintain the current patient-care process. No other details on staffing were released and she added there are no solid plans to change the names of the UCH facilities.
“It is too early in the due diligence process to share any concrete details,” said AHS’ president and CEO in the Florida region Mike Schultz. “What I can confirm is that both systems are focused on uninterrupted quality care to our patients and dedicated to the service of our employees.”
The five facilities originally owned by UCH include:
University Community Hospital, 3100 E. Fletcher Ave. in Tampa
University Community Hospital-Carrollwood, 7171 N. Dale Mabry in Carrollwood
Long Term Acute Care Hospital at Connerton, 9441 Health Center Drive in Land O’ Lakes
Pepin Heat Hospital, 3100 E. Fletcher Ave. in Tampa
Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital, 1395 S. Pinellas Ave. in Tarpon Springs
Also within UCH is The Women’s Center, which is part of University Community Hospital.
The newest of UCH’s hospitals is the Connerton facility, which opened in 2009 to serve the growing community in central Pasco County.
AHS has more than 50,000 employees at its original 37 hospitals, 17 of which are in Florida. The others are in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas and Colorado. The company is based in Winter Park, near Orlando.
More information on AHS can be found at www.adventisthealthsystem.com. More information on UCH can be found at www.uch.org.