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10 years of collaboration at Baltimore pediatric hospital

Mt Washington Pediatric HospitalMFWhile two of the state’s major medical systems may compete with each other in some respects, they’re now celebrating 10 years of an unusual partnership to care for children who require complex medical and rehabilitation care.

The University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins Medicine became the joint owners of Baltimore’s Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital in 2006 — a move that officials say guarantees that young patients can continue getting the care that they need.

“We all recognized that children in this region can benefit from the power of all three institutions,” said Mt. Washington CEO Sheldon Stein. “The egos all get checked.”

Sheldon Stein. (File)

Sheldon Stein. (File)

The co-ownership arrangement gives the children’s hospital access to both technology and expertise it might not otherwise have, Stein said.

The facility can take advantage of the purchasing power of the larger systems, for example, acquiring new technology, supplies and services through their contracts it wouldn’t be able to access on its own; it also obtains its malpractice insurance at a favorable rate through the UMMS self-insurance trust.

Mt. Washington’s focus on infants and children who need ongoing care and therapy also means it’s exempt from the state’s global-budget system that governs most of its other hospitals. Under that system, hospitals’ annual revenues are capped, giving them a financial incentive to reduce re-admissions and potentially avoidable hospital visits.

For Hopkins and UMMS, it’s helpful for the children’s hospital to bear those expenses, Stein said.

Since Mt. Washington’s revenues can increase along with the volume of care it offers, Mt. Washington has a flexibility other hospitals don’t have. It also gives Hopkins and UMMS a place to send patients who no longer need the care of an academic medical center, said UMMS CEO Robert Chrencik.

Hopkins sends many “graduates” of its neonatal intensive-care unit who aren’t yet ready to go home to Mt. Washington, said Ronald Peterson, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The partnership also offers the academic systems the chance to have some continued influence over the quality of their patients’ ongoing care, Peterson said.

“I’m happy we’ve been able to do it,” Peterson said. “The competitive model only goes so far.”

For most of its 90-plus-year history, Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital has had a clinical relationship with Hopkins and drawn its medical leadership – including its current top medical officer – from that institution, Stein said.

The hospital has been part of the UMMS since 2000, when its previous owner, the former North Arundel Hospital, joined the university system.  A few years later, UMMS approached Hopkins about joint ownership.

“It’s the best way to ensure Mt. Washington will always be there for us,” Chrencik said.

In the future, Stein hopes to implement a telemedicine system where the hospital’s patients can connect with doctors and specialists from the other institutions remotely so the children don’t have to miss school and their parents don’t need to take time off from work.

The 102-bed hospital treats more than 8,000 patients per year, with about 800 needing inpatient care and the rest requiring outpatient services.

David Pelovitz, whose 11-year old daughter, Nadiya, is a regular patient at Mt. Washington, said he and his wife have been impressed with the caring staff and personal attention at the hospital for years.

Nadiya was born with a rare genetic condition and can’t walk or speak; she also suffers from epilepsy and has difficulty controlling her hands; she visits the hospital once a week for multiple therapy sessions, include one that is helping her learn to eat, Pelovitz said.

Several years ago, she spent about three months in the hospital following surgery on her legs.

“We felt very comfortable and secure,” he said. “We were comfortable leaving her there overnight.”