United Regional, Medical Center set to merge hospitals July 1

Manchester hospitals United Regional Medical Center and Medical Center of Manchester will consolidate operations into the MCM building on Interstate Drive July 1. (Manchester Times file photo)

Manchester hospitals United Regional Medical Center and Medical Center of Manchester will consolidate operations into the MCM building on Interstate Drive July 1. (Manchester Times file photo)

By Josh Peterson, publisher Almost one year after announcing preliminary plans to merge Manchester’s two hospitals, United Regional Medical Center officials have confirmed that URMC and Medical Center of Manchester will officially become one entity on July 1. While some imaging equipment will remain at the URMC building, the emergency room and other hospital operations will officially move to Medical Center of Manchester, 481 Interstate Drive, beginning July 1. The new facility will also have a new name – although that announcement has not been made. “We are very excited about these plans,” said Ashoke “Bappa” Mukherji with URMC. “All medical services will transition to the Medical Center of Manchester campus. The most important priority is that we have good patient care and that is where the focus is.” The move has been anticipated since July of 2014, when the hospitals issued a release that a merger was planned. Officially, URMC ownership group – Coffee Medical Group – is acquiring Medical Center of Manchester, according to paperwork filed with the state of Tennessee. But Mukherji explained the merger as “more of a partnership.” He added that current owners and board members of MCM will remain relevant in the new hospital – which will be renamed around July 1. “I would truly call this a partnership. The owners of current MCM will have significant input over direction of the company and will continue to have strong voices on the board and management level.” Mukherji said some of the delay from last summer’s announcement until now centered on securing financing. “After we obtained regulatory approval it was within our control [to get consolidation activities started]. We were looking for some additional financing and we have decided to go ahead and consolidate immediately and start a transition as quickly as possible.” Some jobs lost, but not many Some jobs will be eliminated with the merger of the hospitals, but Mukherji reassured that “less than 10 percent” of the workforce between the two hospitals would be out of work. He explained that those jobs could be recovered at a later date. “That is a difficult number to say exactly, but I would say less than a 10 percent [reduction] in staff,” said Mukherji. “The majority of people are staying on. We are very hopeful that if we receive support from our community that those jobs could come back. We just need the volume to justify the staff. “Obviously one of the reasons that we are doing this is for efficiency and elimination of duplication and expenses. An unfortunate consequence is there will be some of our employees who will no longer be necessary because of duplication. Announcements have been made to staffs and are continuing to be made as final decisions are made.” URMC chief executive officer Martha McCormick said that department heads have been selected for the new operation. “We are retaining senior management from both facilities and everyone has a role in this organization,” said Mukherji. “Every department head was, regardless of which facility, offered employment. Not necessarily given a job as a department head but none of those [people] were eliminated. We have done everything we can to retain as many people as we could.” Beds and services The new facility will be a licensed, 49-bed hospital. And although no services will be added, current services will be expanded. “We can expand on our specialty services and I think that is what we are going to see here,” said McCormick. “We will have a full-time cardiologist.” Adding more specialists and sub-specialists will be more feasible with one hospital handling more volume, explained Mukherji. “We are able to recruit additional specialists and sub-specialists to come to Manchester, which I think will be one of the best advantages we will have,” Mukherji explained. “We will have a far higher amount of different services offered through specialists we have here in Manchester. We are hoping [people can stay in Manchester for their medical care]. “We are aggressively recruiting more specialists and sub specialists. The key is consolidated volume that gives [those specialists] the ability to be here.” A “skeleton” staff will remain at the URMC building to operate some radiology equipment – namely the URMC open MRI and PET/CT scanner. “The plan is to eventually relocate those to the new campus at some point.”