If Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. ever owns a dozen hospitals in the Chicago area, they aren't likely to acquire them outright.
So says Columbia's new top Chicago division executive, the third person this year to try to crack what has been the Nashville, Tenn.-based giant's most difficult market.
"We'll be trying harder to develop strategic partnerships rather than acquisitions; that is a change from the original thought," said Donald Maloney, who assumes the title of chief operating officer for Columbia's Chicago Division. The COO slot will be the highest position in Columbia's Chicago Division, which includes eight hospitals.
Maloney, 44, hired just last month, will handle day-to-day operations in Chicago, taking the reins from Nick Hilger, who is working as a consultant to Columbia's Nashville-based Mid-America Group. In March, Hilger replaced Samuel Holtzman as division CEO. Maloney's immediate superior is David White, president of the Mid-America Group.
Maloney's career includes 17 years with Humana and Galen Health Care. He worked for seven years at Columbia Hoffman Estates (Ill.) Medical Center, when it was owned by Humana. Most recently, he held executive positions at Integrated Medical Delivery Corp., which owns and operates Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, Ill.
Hilger and Holtzman failed to make Chicago what Columbia's top executive Richard Scott once said would be one of the chain's greatest revenue sources, with at least a dozen hospitals.
Columbia wouldn't disclose financial information for its Chicago facilities.
Thus far, Columbia has eight hospitals in Chicago, but hasn't acquired an acute-care facility in more than a year. It acquired a psychiatric facility, Charter Behavioral Health System of Chicago, earlier this year but is merging its operations with nearby Columbia Chicago Lakeshore Hospital on the city's North Side, another psychiatric facility.
In addition, Columbia will be renewing its effort to offer physicians stakes in its Chicago operations. Maloney said Columbia discussed physician syndications in Chicago before, but they weren't implemented.
The physician syndications, a key Columbia strategy, offer doctors an opportunity to invest in a Columbia subsidiary that runs the hospital. Through their stake, physicians share in the hospital's profits.
Maloney also wants to meet with Catholic hospitals despite the adamant stand of Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin against Catholic hospitals becoming investor-owned organizations. Maloney said he understands the church's stand against Catholic hospitals becoming investor-owned but wants to find out if there are areas where they can work together. "I want to know if there's something in between," he said.
"I don't know when I will be visiting with (archdiocese officials), but it's certainly on the list," Maloney said. One thing's for sure. Columbia isn't pulling out of Chicago. "You can count on it," he said.
But executives aren't ruling out restructuring some facilities. For several months, reports have circulated that Columbia Grant Hospital on Chicago's highly overbedded North Side will close. Earlier this year, the hospital discontinued obstetric service and eliminated 136 full-time employees.
"We have no plans to close facilities," Maloney said. "That could change, but there's nothing under consideration now."