By year's end, Akron's two major health systems will be owned by outside entities, a reality that just a few years ago some leaders were reluctant to embrace.
But now, with Akron General years into a successful integration with Cleveland Clinic, and Summa Health announcing it will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Michigan-based Beaumont Health, city and hospital leaders are ready to seize what comes alongside a loss of local ownership: stability and an infusion of outside resources.
"I think Akron joins the list of good-sized cities where their major hospitals, their major institutions, are not locally owned anymore," said Allan Baumgarten, a Minnesota-based healthcare consultant who studies the Ohio and Michigan markets, among others. "Which, I don't know, it might be a cause for sadness. On the other hand, I think you can make the case that, independently, Summa Health was struggling. And even though they've improved their results, they've improved their facilities over the last couple of years, I think that they saw that they would need some kind of partner in order to be sustainable going forward, to be successful going forward."
Looking at the ongoing changes in healthcare — from reimbursement to the shift to ambulatory care to high capital costs — and the fierce competition in the industry, Dr.Cliff Deveny, president and CEO of Summa Health, said that if Summa was going to thrive as an organization into the future, it needed to find a partner that would help it continue to meet the healthcare needs of Akron and Summit County, as well as to expand.
The key, he said, was that the search for a partner, launched last fall, was more about opportunity than desperation. After a couple of tumultuous years financially and culturally, Deveny helped turn the system around. Summa closed 2018 with an operating income of $24.3 million, compared to an operating loss of $28 million the year prior. Operating revenue grew slightly, from $1.31 billion to $1.37 billion, between those two years.
In narrowing down the pool of candidates, Summa and its board focused on finding a partner that would help Summa maintain services — such as behavioral health and maternity care — and address community needs, such as the opioid crisis and an aging population with chronic diseases.
Beaumont rose to the top as a culturally compatible system with a similar world view, Deveny said.
Beaumont CEO John Fox said his system was drawn to Summa for its "good reputation."
"They're interested and committed to graduate medical education; very committed to quality and safety and service and affordability," Fox said.