With its new-found independence, a university hospital has found a way to slice the Richmond, Va., market so that it comes away with pieces of both of the city's largest and most competitive healthcare systems.
Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia Hospitals Authority last week signed an affiliation agreement with not-for-profit Bon Secours Richmond Health System.
The deal comes less than four months after the 698-bed hospital, known as MCV, joined for-profit Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. in a three-way venture to build a replacement facility for Richmond Eye and Ear Hospital (Sept. 23, 1996, p. 42).
The rival Bon Secours and Columbia systems in Richmond have vied for MCV's affection in the past but have not gotten as far as an outright merger or acquisition.
Columbia has successfully wooed five other Richmond-area hospitals into its for-profit fold, while Bon Secours operates four not-for-profit hospitals and has affiliations with two others in the city.
After being fickle in its attitude toward Columbia and Bon Secours for years (See chart), MCV fought to become unattached to all suitors. In May, the state granted its wish and allowed it to become an independent hospital authority, free of restrictive state laws (June 17, 1996, p. 42).
MCV has continued as the teaching hospital for the university and includes school officials on its board. It earned $20.7 million on total revenues of $395.2 million in 1995, according to HCIA, a Baltimore-based healthcare information company.
MCV's maneuvers suggest it's trying to get the best of many worlds, which may be in danger of colliding.
"The healthcare industry is full of all sorts of interesting partners," said Eugene P. Trani, M.D., chairman of MCV's board. "We are moving ahead with the Columbia partnership, but in the future we will begin our initiatives with Bon Secours. My goal is to make sure MCV is included in everybody's networks for everything."
Christopher Carney, regional vice president for Bon Secours, said he's "looking at the big picture" and does not think MCV's partnership with Columbia will affect future projects with Bon Secours.
"We will look to each other first when there are opportunities to avoid duplication," he said.
Under the affiliation agreement, Bon Secours and MCV will grant each other preferential status in developing joint ventures in central Virginia for at least five years.
Trani said the ventures will likely focus on developing physician residency programs, courting joint managed-care contracts, sharing lab services, opening new satellite facilities and providing charity care.
Carney added that MCV brings to the partnership a strong medical education program, and Bon Secours can contribute its networks of physicians and community hospitals.
Meanwhile, MCV will have to ensure cordial relations with Columbia, its new investment partner.
Columbia executives didn't respond to an interview request.