Wright State University’s medical school and Premier Health could reach an affiliation deal by the end of the year that some say will help both keep up with the growing demands in health care.
Both sides have privately been discussing the partnership for the past two years which will have to be approved by Wright State’s board of trustees, Greg Sample, the university’s chief operating officer, said.
The agreement would mean Wright State students applying for clinical rotations and residencies at Premier’s facilities will receive preference. The agreement also means Premier would look to Wright State first for some of its “academic needs,” Sample said.
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Such agreements are critical to filling physician and nursing shortages around the country and they also can do a good job of keeping medical professionals in one region or city after school, said John Palmer, spokesman for the Ohio Hospital Association.
“When the state is looking at shortages in the health care area … these types of agreements are going to be critical in the process of getting professionals into health care facilities,” Palmer said.
Premier Health is the largest private employer in the region with 13,800 employees and $1.69 billion in revenue in 2017.
Premier Health and Wright State have previously used an informal affiliation agreement and the health care provider is already the landing place of most WSU Boonshoft School of Medicine students and grads, Sample said. But, the two have long wanted to formalize the affiliation and have been working to do so for around two years, Sample said.
The potential deal comes as Wright State is considering consolidating some of its programs into a college of health sciences. That consolidation could be completed by the fall 2019 semester, provost Susan Edwards said.
Wright State has struggled financially in recent years and trimmed more than $50 million in spending during fiscal year 2018 alone. But, since Wright State and Premier already have a “financial relationship” through the school of medicine, that will not be a focal point of a potential agreement, Sample said.
“It sounds like we’re getting close. We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” said Doug Fecher, chairman of the WSU board of trustees.
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Sample, along with Edwards and chief business officer Walt Branson have been negotiating the terms of an affiliation agreement with leaders at Premier. Though discussions have been going on for two years, they “heated up” in the last nine months, Sample said.
The agreement will not make Wright State’s medical school the “exclusive” partner of Premier but the two will be each other’s “preferred partners,” Sample said.
Premier Health typically does not comment on ongoing negotiations, spokesman Ben Sutherly said via email.
“Premier Health takes very seriously its long-standing and ongoing commitment to strengthen medical care for the greater Dayton region, and we often accomplish that goal through partnerships with other community institutions,” Sutherly said. “Premier Health has long collaborated with Wright State University and values that relationship.”
Wright State’s medical school does not have its own university hospital like Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center or the University of Cincinnati’s medical center. Instead, Wright State’s medical students and graduates gain experience through multiple hospitals in the region, including Premier’s Miami Valley Hospital, Kettering Medical Center and Dayton Children’s Hospital.
The Dayton region is one of nine of the top 100 largest metros in the U.S. that does not have a recognized public hospital or university hospital. These hospitals get reimbursed at a higher rate for Medicaid to make up for the high cost of being a teaching hospital and take some of the strain off of the health care systems.
Wright State and Premier leaders do not want to establish a university hospital with each other, both Sutherly and WSU spokesman Seth Bauguess said. Rather, Bauguess said the university is interested in “enhancing and growing the existing relationship between the two organizations.”
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The potential WSU-Premier agreement reflects a trend of partnerships and mergers that have formed around the state in recent years, said Tom Campanella, professor of health economics at Baldwin Wallace University.
“I think as organizations they’re attempting to become more integrated,” Campanella said. “They’re looking to be in a position to be able to provide services in a less fragmented…more comprehensive way.”
Most recently, Bowling Green State University announced it plans to take over operations of Mercy College in Toledo and Youngstown. The college was previously owned and operated by Mercy Health, which will partner with BGSU to provide students and grads clinical rotations and job opportunities, according to the school.
In 2015, Ohio University launched a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic to establish an extension campus to train future medical professionals at South Pointe Hospital in northeast Ohio.
That same year the University of Toledo’s board of trustees signed off on a 50-year affiliation deal with ProMedica Health. As part of the affiliation, ProMedica agreed to invest $250 million into the University of Toledo’s College of Medicine.
“The driving force is the consumer and community needs,” Palmer said. “I think it would be a good assumption that we’ll see more of these.”
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