BJC Health System of St. Louis last week announced plans for the first major integration of clinical services among its eight metropolitan-area hospitals since the system's formation in 1993.
The reorganization, to be executed over five years, will involve services for women and children.
In it, BJC will build up obstetrics and related services at 315-bed Missouri Baptist Medical Center in Town & Country, a growing suburb in western St. Louis County.
Meanwhile, the 30-bed obstetrics program at 433-bed Jewish Hospital of St. Louis will be closed next September.
The move likely will heighten competition between Missouri Baptist and nearby 881-bed St. John's Mercy Medical Center, a member of BJC rival Unity Health Network. St. John's is the biggest "baby factory" in the state, delivering about 6,000 babies annually.
"If (BJC is) going to be seriously contending for patients on both cost and convenience, this is probably a good decision," said Steve Jackstadt, of the St. Louis office of Towers Perrin, a benefits consultant.
The reorganization will cut by 31, or about 19%, the number of obstetrics beds BJC operates in the St. Louis area. Missouri Baptist will add 14 beds to the 26 it now operates. Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, however, will give up four of its 38 obstetrics beds, and Christian Northwest Hospital will lose 11 of its 36 beds.
Later this month, BJC will file a certificate-of-need application with the Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee for $75 million in construction associated with the reorganization. Its plans include a $50 million expansion at Missouri Baptist, including a new outpatient-care facility.
BJC controls about 22% of the newborn discharges in the St. Louis market. It has a 30% share of all healthcare services. The system operates 16 hospitals in Missouri and Illinois.