A joint venture between University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and Alegent Health has been postponed while the academic medical center settles differences with its physicians and looks at other possible hospital partners.
A letter of intent called for a definitive agreement to be completed this week, but leadership at the University of Nebraska wants its board of regents to review all options, including other partnerships. The decision to postpone completion of a definitive agreement with Omaha-based Alegent comes two months after 28 UNMC physicians said they were slighted by Chancellor Carol Aschenbrener, M.D., who oversees the university's medical school and health programs (May 27, p. 6).
"(The regents) will take a serious look at the whole issue of affiliating with other hospitals or clinical operations, so the university wants to put this on hold until the end of the year," said Joseph Rowson, director of public affairs for the University of Nebraska system.
The board of regents has scheduled a meeting for Aug. 23, when it will spend an entire day discussing UNMC's options, as well as academic medical center issues in general, Rowson said.
Meanwhile, University of Nebraska President L. Dennis Smith has encouraged physicians to hold discussions among themselves to decide what they feel is important. Although the physicians involved constitute a minority of the 666 full-time faculty members at the medical center, they include nationally known transplant surgeons and some department chiefs.
Alegent, a system of six hospitals in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, continues to be optimistic about an eventual joint venture with UNMC, said Joan Neuhaus, vice president of planning and marketing at Alegent.
Combined, Alegent and UNMC would have more than $715 million in assets and annual revenues exceeding $560 million, according to figures from Alegent and HCIA, a Baltimore-based healthcare information company.
The proposed joint venture would create a powerhouse in the Omaha-Council Bluffs, Iowa, market. Alegent already boasts access to 326,000, or 73.6%, of 443,000 covered lives in the Omaha metropolitan statistical area.
Alegent is confident the deal will come together and won't face antitrust problems.
Combined, the inpatient acute-care market share of Alegent and University of Nebraska Medical Center ranges between 25% and 36% in Omaha, Alegent executives said.
Statewide, the hospitals said they don't expect market share to grow much. University of Nebraska Medical Center draws patients from across the state, while Alegent's presence is entirely in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.