In the breakup of the marriage that was five-hospital Baptist St. Vincent's in Jacksonville, Fla., it was St. Vincent's Health System that got dumped.
St. Vincent's partner, Baptist Health System, was the one to call it quits after more than four years of merger. The two announced their split late last month (Feb. 28, p. 4).
"We are absolutely disappointed because we felt that many of these kinds of organizations in coming together don't work well, (but) our perspective was, this one was working extremely well," said Robert Henkel, senior vice president at Ascension Health.
St. Vincent's is part of Ascension Health, the giant Roman Catholic system created last year by the merger of the Daughters of Charity National Health System, St. Louis, and the Sisters of St. Joseph Health System, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Terms of the original merger agreement allowed either system to withdraw from the deal without cause after two years, Henkel said.
"Very clearly, Baptist Health System made the decision that they wanted to leave the affiliation agreement, which was their right," Henkel said.
Baptist's board Chairman John Williams Jr. said Baptist wanted out of the merger to "be more flexible, to let us make quicker, better decisions for the city of Jacksonville."
Baptist's decision to pull out of the merger is not unlike decisions other systems are making, Williams noted.
"If you look across the country, there's a lot of relooking at mergers that happened."
He said consumers are looking for choice, rather than exclusivity, in healthcare, and the trend has changed with systems moving away from managing risk, Williams said.
Unlike most systems that divorce, money wasn't the reason here.
"This is not a financially driven decision at all," Williams said.
Combined, Baptist St. Vincent's hospitals had a net income of $56 million for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 1998, according to the most recent financial statements available from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
During the next four to six months, Baptist St. Vincent's will return its merged operations to two systems, although it may retain some shared services.
"I would hope that we would be friendly competitors," Williams said.
Baptist and St. Vincent's each control one of Jacksonville's two largest hospitals. St. Vincent's owns 722-bed St. Vincent's Medical Center, and Baptist owns 506-bed Baptist Medical Center, which includes a children's hospital. Baptist also operates two small hospitals, one in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and one in Fernandina Beach, Fla.