The American Hospital Association's board of trustees will appoint a special task force of hospital executives to help the association develop new categories of AHA membership and an accompanying dues structure. The board made the decision to appoint the task force at its meeting late last week in Chicago. Faced with declining hospital membership and a changing healthcare industry landscape, the AHA is looking to open its membership to other forms of healthcare delivery systems. Richard Wade, senior vice president for communications, said the association will assemble the task force in January. Working with the board's strategic planning committee, the task force will complete the final membership and dues plan next year and implement it in 1998, Wade said. In other AHA news, the association has decided to replace its annual summer convention and trade show with a regional educational meeting held in conjunction with its summer board meeting. After a nearly 100-year run, the AHA held its last convention and trade show in August in Philadelphia. The first regional educational meeting sans trade show will be held next July in Salt Lake City.
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has proposed a managed-care-based system of subsidizing hospitals' charity-care expenses. New Jersey Health Commissioner Len Fishman said the plan, which will require a federal Medicaid waiver to implement, would allow the state to pay for charity care provided in settings other than hospitals. The New Jersey Hospital Association has endorsed the plan. Hospitals will be accountable for treating charity-care patients, but the plan gives them the flexibility to rely on a network of nonhospital providers, such as doctors, substance-abuse treatment centers and community clinics.
Promina Health System, the Atlanta area's biggest network of hospitals and doctors, has won state approval to operate as an HMO. The new HMO will be able to compete directly with insurers. Industry observers say the move could be a sign that other hospital and doctor networks will seek to contract directly with employers to deliver medical care (See related stories, p. 18). Promina will operate its HMO in 16 counties in the Atlanta metropolitan area and plans to first target 14,000 of its own employees and their dependents. It's the second healthcare provider to be granted an HMO license in Georgia. The first was granted to Egleston Children's Health Care System, Atlanta.
Nashville, Tenn.-based Columbia/ HCA Healthcare Corp. said last week it would close two of its hospitals but will replace one of them. In Jasper, Tenn., Columbia will build a new 50-bed hospital at a cost of $25 million, replacing 39-year-old Columbia South Pittsburg (Tenn.) Municipal Hospital, about six miles southwest of Jasper. The new facility is scheduled to be completed in 1998. The company also is closing Columbia Jefferson (La.) Medical Center, formerly known as Elmwood Medical Center, in suburban New Orleans, citing a crowded hospital market. The move would eliminate more than 240 full-time-equivalent jobs, although Columbia said the facility will re-open next year providing some nonacute-care services. Columbia has five other hospitals in the New Orleans market.
Fifty doctors have sued Spartanburg (S.C.) Regional Medical Center for limiting their staff privileges as a result of their investment in a competing for-profit hospital in Spartanburg. The doctors became part owners of Mary Black Memorial Hospital in July through a joint venture with Quorum Health Group. Before the deal with Quorum, Mary Black had considered a merger with Spartanburg Regional. The doctors filed suit in federal court after Spartanburg Regional's governing board said they can't serve on policy committees and said their admissions practices will be monitored.
Executives at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago said the 816-bed teaching hospital will sue the Wall Street Journal for defamation because of a front-page story criticizing practices at its heart-transplant program. Citing hospital correspondence and documents, the Journal reported that transplant surgeons at the medical center had questioned the quality of care given transplant patients and the judgment of program leaders in pushing procedures. Rush President Leo Henikoff, M.D., defended the program. He said it recently was reviewed by HCFA and given approval to treat Medicare beneficiaries. Investigators from the Illinois health department and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations are reviewing the program as a result of the article.