The Greater Houston Hospital Council, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, voted to disband effective April 1.
The original purposes of the council "are now being well served by other organizations, either in the greater Houston area, or by regional and national organizations," said Raymond Khoury, the council's chairman and chief executive officer of St. Joseph Hospital.
The Houston council is the fifth metropolitan hospital association to fold or have its operations merged into a statewide group in the past two years (See chart). When the Houston group completes its dissolution, 37 metropolitan hospital associations will remain in operation, according to figures from the American Hospital Association. Dallas and San Antonio continue to operate metropolitan hospital groups in Texas.
Eugene Beck took over the president's post at the hospital council in 1993 when its first president, Garrett Graham, retired after 23 years. However, since then the council has struggled to define a role that didn't replicate other hospital organizations'.
"There was a strong concern about whether we're duplicating other groups," Beck said. He noted the efforts of state and national hospital associations and groups devoted to various niches, such as children's hospitals, public hospitals and not-for-profit hospitals. Each of those organizations vie for dues money from hospitals, which are scrutinizing cost-cutting strategies.
The council's staff, which numbered 27 when Beck was hired, has been downsized twice to the present seven employees. A former Utah Hospital Association president, Beck, 54, said he has not decided on his future plans.
The group has 42 hospital system members, but four dropped out last year, Beck said. In addition, 19 of the area's hospitals are owned by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., Nashville, Tenn. Beck noted that the council's longtime strengths, such as shared services and government advocacy, are filled on the corporate level by Columbia.
What's more, Columbia isn't alone in such efforts. Two other Houston hospitals have full-time staff members devoted to government advocacy, he said.
The hospital council's shared services company, which generated about $1 million annually, was discontinued last August. The council's remaining budget was less than $1 million annually.