April 4 was hailed as a wonderful new day in the life of Twin County Regional Hospital.
On that Wednesday, the Twin County Regional Healthcare Board of Directors and Duke LifePoint finalized their agreement to jointly own and operate TCRH and its affiliated assets.
“It’s an exciting new chapter in a very successful history. We’ve been very successful in meeting the needs of the community over the last 38 years,” said TCRH President & CEO Jon Applebaum. “We’re excited about opening a new chapter where we’re going to have the strength and expertise of Duke University Health System and LifePoint Hospitals to bring us more resources and expertise with respect to developing new clinical service lines, helping us continue the quality of care and safety of patient care.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Duke LifePoint owns 80 percent with TCRH keeping a 20 percent stake, but governance is shared equally. TCRH Board Chairman Doug Vaught said after researching different healthcare systems, the strengths of Duke LifePoint, coupled with the shared governance made it an easy choice.
“We started out with over 20 hospital systems that we contacted to see if they would have an interest. We received inquiries from about 16 of those and got proposals from several. We looked at those and had site interviews with some of them and narrowed the proposals down and considered three or four systems,” Vaught said. “We telephoned community leaders in the areas where these companies operated hospitals to see what the system was like and would they honor the commitments they made in the affiliation process? What kind of expertise did they have in converting standalone hospitals into system hospitals? In our interviews, it became clear to the board that LifePoint was the only one that had any experience in converting those kind of standalone hospitals. Part of that is the regions they operate in, they’re usually the community hospital. They don’t operate a lot of larger systems, so they’ve been able to develop a program of integrating the hospital into the group. We wanted to continue having input in the governance of the hospital and they were receptive to that. When you add those things together, it was a unanimous choice that this was the way we needed to go.”
As part of the agreement, DLP is committed to investing $20 million in capital improvements at the hospital during the next 10 years. The retained assets and proceeds from the transaction will eliminate TCRH’s debt. The remaining proceeds, approximately $10 million, will help fund the Twin County Community Foundation, which is formed out of the Twin County Healthcare Foundation to support crucial community needs.
Jeff Seraphine, President of LifePoint’s Delta Division and the head of the team that will be helping in the transition, said over the next three to six months, representatives of DLP and TCRH will coordinate to make sure all operations are in sync. He said a lot of that work goes on behind the scenes, but it’s critical to a successful venture.
“Now, unlike before, the hospital is going to have access to 54 other hospitals and benchmarking and peers and people they can pick the phone up and call,” Seraphine said. “You want to be able to get all the information married up so they know how to compare.”
Seraphine said steps for strategic growth are already being planned, and additional plans for more services are coming soon.
“Now that we have better resources and capital, more purchasing power, more knowledge when it comes to contracting, we’ll look at what they do and figure out how we can add value to those areas to help them improve the operations of the hospital,” he said.
Applebaum said with more services available, residents of the Twin Counties won’t have to go out of the area to receive specialized care.
“When we speak to residents of the community, they want to stay locally for care. They have trust and confidence and know a lot of people that work in the hospital. We truly feel we know our patients well and we are neighbors taking care of our neighbors,” Applebaum said. “There is a certain comfort and reduction in anxiety when you know the people who are taking care of you. Duke and LifePoint will bring us clinical expertise and resources to develop services we haven’t been able to offer as an independent hospital but we will be able to offer.”
TCRH is the third hospital to join DLP and the first Virginia hospital in the network. It joins Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson, N.C., and Person Memorial Hospital in Roxboro, N.C. In addition, DLP operates DLP Cardiac Partners, which offers hospital-based catheterization labs and mobile catheterization services in N.C. Duke LifePoint has also signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue the acquisition of Marquette General Hospital, Inc., in Marquette, Mich.
Applebaum said TCRH is proud to be teaming up with Duke and LifePoint and the partnership will benefit the community.
“We’ve had great success over the last four decades and we feel very confident we can have greater success in the foreseeable future,” Applebaum said. “It’s a new day and we’re very excited. We’ll keep the community well informed as we make progress.”
For more information on the partnership going forward, visit www.tcrh.org.