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The two hospitals in Manchester that are located less than three miles apart may soon become one.
United Regional Medical Center, located at 1001 McArthur Drive, and Medical Center of Manchester, 481 Interstate Drive, have embarked upon the first steps toward a merger of the two hospitals, according to a press release issued by both hospitals Monday.
“We are really working closely together with Medical Center [of Manchester] but I want to really emphasize that these are just the beginning steps,” said URMC chief executive officer Martha McCormick Monday morning.
URMC will file an application for a Certificate of Need (CON) with the Tennessee Health Services Development Agency next month. According to hospital officials, the application will set forth a “plan for the two hospitals to combine and operate a single hospital on Interstate Drive.”
If approved, “most medical operations” at URMC’s McArthur Drive location would be discontinued.
In its application, URMC will seek regulatory approval to relocate to MCM’s building on Interstate Drive and MCM will file a
Certificate of Need to shut down its emergency room and, once combined, the facility will likely operate under a new name. A name for the facility has not been decided, according to McCormick.
United Regional’s CON filing cites the need for the two hospitals, which are located approximately 2.4 miles apart, to combine operations to “create a stronger health care facility that can afford to invest in state-of-the-art equipment and recruit more primary care physicians to the area.” The application also details a financial transaction in which the ownership groups of the two hospitals would be combined.
United Regional Medical Center applied for and received a Certificate of Need to build a new, state-of-the-art hospital facility in late 2007 but those plans were put on hold after the economic crash of 2008 and uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act. But, according to URMC’s Ashoke “Bappa” Mukherji, that CON to construct a new facility is still owned by the hospital.
“We got a three-year extension for that new facility CON about two months ago,” explained Mukherji. “That leaves us with options. But we feel like this combination of the two facilities is the smarter thing to do and use that momentum toward the next step.”
Mukherji, along with Dr. Wendell McAbee, led an investor group in purchasing Coffee Medical Center from Coffee County 12 years ago and renamed it to United Regional Medical Center.
“When we bought the hospital, it was always our plan to expand services and modernize the facility,” said McAbee. “We were able to dramatically increase the services offered, but have been unable to do much with the physical plant itself. The planned combination is the best way to develop a first-class health care facility for the citizens of Manchester.
Medical Center of Manchester president J. Stanley Rogers and his partners built MCM approximately 30 years ago.
“Putting these two hospitals together is long overdue,” said Rogers. “This is a wonderful way to unite our medical community and bring additional services to Manchester.”
If the CON is approved and plans move forward, Mukherji will oversee the integration of the two facilities.
“The application is an exciting and important first step, but nothing is finalized yet,” stated Mukherji. “The management teams of both hospitals have worked together to develop a strong operating plan and we hope to get a quick approval and move forward.”
After a Certificate of Need is filed, the Tennessee Health Services Development Agency will schedule a public hearing to hear debate form interested parties and the public. URMC has requested an expedited hearing. If the CON is approved, the companies would then have to file additional notices with various other governmental agencies, including Medicare.