As they work through their separation, the Northern California medical centers that make up UCSF Stanford Health Care have decided that a clean break is the way to go.
After the October decision to split up the 2-year-old merger that brought together the academic medical centers of Stanford University and the University of California at San Francisco, the architects of the divorce at first pondered keeping several joint programs, notably children's services and obstetrics. They also considered joining their home-care, information technology, laboratory services and purchasing programs (Nov. 8, 1999, p. 20).
But now the two systems appear to have abandoned any shared ownership prospects.
"I would be surprised if there are any joint programs going forward," said David Hunter, chief executive officer and founder of the Hunter Group, a turnaround firm based in St. Petersburg, Fla. Hunter became interim CEO of UCSF Stanford when its two top executives resigned last August. "Probably there will not be a lot of common activity, if any."
The two sides rejected a merged pediatrics program because they could not agree on how to structure and govern it, according to a joint statement by Haile Debas, dean of medicine and vice chancellor for medical affairs at UCSF, and Eugene Bauer, dean of the medical school and vice president of Stanford University Medical Center.
A merger of pediatrics assets would have been unequal because Stanford would have contributed an entire children's hospital while UCSF would have contributed only a children's ward, said Ruthann Richter, spokeswoman for the Stanford medical center.
Another option, forming a holding company, was rejected because the two systems could not agree on a suitable structure.
The failure to salvage a joint children's program illustrates some of the culture clashes and difficulties that led to the announcement of the merger dissolution late last year. UCSF Stanford was created in 1997 to cut costs, but instead the system racked up an $86 million operational loss and a $73 million net overall loss during the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 1999.
The system originally included four acute-care hospitals: Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.; Stanford (Calif.) University Hospital and Clinics; and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and UCSF/Mount Zion Medical Center, both in San Francisco.
Since the breakup announcement, the system closed Mount Zion's emergency room in November and converted the hospital to an outpatient facility in December. It has been renamed UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion.
UCSF Stanford had originally set March 1 as a target date for splitting up, but the date has been extended a month because of the time required to re-license each hospital and complete regulatory reviews. Not to mention the bureaucratic nightmare of rehiring thousands of employees.
"Right now, we're in the process of trying to rehire 4,300 people on a single date," said Bill Gordon, spokesman for the University of California.
In addition to sorting out how to deal with benefits and job classifications, his system is also searching for a new chief executive, Gordon said.
Meanwhile, at Stanford, Malinda Mitchell remains chief operating officer of Stanford University Hospital and Clinics, and the system is close to naming a CEO from within, Richter said.
As of March 1, UCSF and Stanford will be separated financially and responsible for their own portion of the system's losses. April 1 is the target date for completing the breakup and returning the two systems to their independent status, Hunter said.
Hunter declined to estimate the cost of the split.