St. Joseph Medical Center officially made a fresh start over the weekend after a long-drawn out acquisitions process that wrapped up when officials finalized the sale of its assets to the University of Maryland Medical System.
“I’m excited to go out there and make it an even greater hospital, and eventually, to turn it around with the backing of the medical school,” Francis X. Kelly, a former state senator who will be chairman of the new board of directors, said Friday. “The region needs that hospital, and always has.”
Under the asset purchase agreement, the new entity — now called University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center — will not assume any liability for past legal actions against the 145-year-old Catholic community hospital, which is located in Towson.
St. Joseph, which had been owned by Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, had been losing about $3 million a month in revenues and had experienced drastic reductions in the numbers of patients admitted since a 2009 scandal involving its cardiac care unit, Kelly said.
Moving forward, Kelly said the goal is to “grow with an emphasis on quality and efficiency.” That means supplementing St. Joseph’s existing specialized programs, particularly the cardiac and cancer care units, without duplicating services provided elsewhere in UMMS, he said.
“St. Joe’s has for years been a high-quality cardiac center, and that’s unique for a community hospital,” he said. “There have been some problems by people who worked there, and we want to restore the confidence in that program.”
Over the past several years, hundreds of patients sued the hospital, claiming former lead cardiologist Dr. Mark Midei gave them unnecessary heart stents during surgeries. Midei resigned, and the Maryland Board of Physicians revoked his medical license. Many lawsuits are still pending.
St. Joseph also paid a $22 million settlement last November after federal officials said the hospital had paid illegal kickbacks over the course of a decade to a group called MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates, which was co-founded by Midei. Federal officials also said the hospital separately billed federal benefit programs for the unnecessary stents.
“Doctors stopped sending their patients there, and we want to get those patients back,” Kelly said. “We want to make sure those docs realize we’re going strong, because that’s how you grow — by increasing patient volume.”
After the scandal, the hospital’s 2,200 employees — who will be retained in the new hospital or elsewhere in UMMS — lacked the “stable leader” they needed, Kelly said.
“So we want to show them that we’re going to be available and transparent,” he said. “And we’ll bring some more doctors — not to replace anybody, but to complement what those people are already doing.”
Kelly has also said there will be no “wholesale changes” to the hospital’s operations.
In March, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien voiced dissatisfaction that St. Joseph was being sold to a non-Catholic entity. But Archbishop William E. Lori said last week that the Archdiocese of Baltimore and UMMS had agreed that St. Joseph would retain its Catholic identity under its new name.
“As health care reform continues to evolve, the SJMC board and CHI recognized their obligation to find innovative approaches to meet the changing needs of the communities they serve while remaining true to SJMC’s Catholic identity,” said Beth O’Brien, CHI senior vice president and group executive officer.
“The transfer of SJMC’s assets to UMMS will position University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center to thrive in the future and serve the health needs of the people of Maryland,” she said.
Kelly said preserving the Catholic fabric of the hospital is vital to maintaining the connections to its employees, patients and the public.
“I think there’s very strong affection and support for St. Joe’s by the residents of Baltimore County,” Kelly said, adding that 10 of his grandchildren were born there. “And I think now that they know it’s affiliated with the University of Maryland, it’ll be even better.”
Officials have named Mohan Suntha, vice chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, as president and chief executive officer of the new hospital. Financial terms of the deal were not released.
Daily Record Business Writer Melody Simmons contributed to this report.