In Houston, a proposed merger between St. Luke's Episcopal and Methodist hospitals is unraveling as pressures to protect the status quo prevail.
A lot of egos are involved. Under Chief Executive Officer Larry Mathis, Methodist undertook a $150 million expansion effort in the '80s to become the nation's largest hospital. St. Luke's has touted high-profile practitioners such as heart specialist Denton Cooley, and its physicians reportedly are unhappy about losing power under the proposed union. A sign of the sensitivities was the appointment of a 73-member panel to select members of the system board to oversee the hospitals.
It's not easy to combine two healthcare leviathans, but inevitable hurdles can be overcome. When two strong hospital systems in San Antonio put together a partnership, dedication and inventiveness helped create the necessary trade-offs to get the deal done (Feb. 6, p. 41).
Perhaps St. Luke's and Methodist are not perfect partners. But eliminating duplication has the potential for $100 million in annual savings. If these two not-for-profit powerhouses want to demonstrate accountability to their community, no effort should be spared to pull off this deal.