PRMC/Nanticoke merger to enhance health care

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford.

A work in progress for some time, proposed affiliation of Seaford-based Nanticoke Health Services and Peninsula Regional Health System of Salisbury has passed final state and federal regulatory approval.

In a Jan. 2 announcement, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Nanticoke Physician Network and all other Nanticoke health care services have joined the Peninsula Regional Health System. 

McCready Health, based in Crisfield, is expected to merge later this year. The result is the creation of a revolutionary new health system designed to enhance inpatient, outpatient and emergency care, and wellness services across the entire Delmarva Peninsula. 

“health care systems are more frequently coming together to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving environment. We are proud to now have officially merged, and together as a new system we will be working throughout the region to better the health and wellness of Delmarva,” said Steve Leonard, President/CEO of the Peninsula Regional Health System. “We continue to look for partners on this journey and are excited about McCready joining soon and the opportunities to grow that will follow.”

“We are excited for the next phase of the Nanticoke journey,” said Penny Short, President of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.  “By partnering with Peninsula Regional Health System, Nanticoke will be able to continue providing the high quality, compassionate care we are known for while expanding services for our community.  Together with Peninsula, we are ensuring our community has access to the quality health care it deserves for years to come.”

The proposal was addressed at several levels in 2019. The Delaware Health Resources Board Sept. 26 at a meeting in Dover accepted the state review committee’s recommendation for approval of the affiliation.

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and Peninsula Regional Medical Center, the hospitals themselves, will keep their names.

A branding study is currently underway to develop a new name for the health system that will reflect the combined culture and service delivery promise of Peninsula Regional, Nanticoke and McCready. The new name will be revealed in late Spring.

The new health system immediately expands access to care for residents across the region.  It is expected that services in Seaford will not only remain in place but also be enhanced, including additional technology and procedures, and possibly new locations for care. 

While the two health care providers are legally one organization, it is still very early in the collaborative process.  A full strategic plan, with a goal to expand access to care and provide more services closer to where people live and work, is being drafted.

A number of services and service lines, including oncology, cardiology and orthopedics, are being evaluated to determine where enhancements can be made to create a stronger system using what both organizations have to offer.  There is also a great deal of opportunity to grow population health programs to better manage patients across the continuum of care. 

A combined network of family care and specialty physician offices will connect local health care providers in an even more meaningful way, allowing them to eventually share one electronic medical record (EMR).  Patients benefit as providers will be able to communicate more easily when consulting on care paths and plans. The result will be smoother patient referrals to an increased number of specialty offices through comprehensive care coordination, which has proven to result in better patient outcomes.

“As a dedicated group of health care professionals serving the Delmarva Peninsula, we are thrilled to join with our colleagues at Nanticoke in becoming our own enterprise,” said Dr. Karin DiBari, Vice President/Chief Physician Executive of Peninsula Regional Medical Group.  “This physician led, professionally managed, multi-specialty network of practices founded on teamwork and communication, will allow us to continue to attract and retain talented professionals to meet the needs of our community and thrive in this ever-changing health care environment.”

There are no immediate plans for staffing changes.  Eventually, the new health system will incorporate nearly 5,000 employees, which affords multiple employment opportunities. 

Integration teams from all areas across both organizations have been working to become one health care system for a number of months, and that continues.  Teams are drawing upon strengths from both organizations to develop a plan for the future. 

“It will take a year or two to work through the integration process.  Bringing together two robust organizations requires a tremendous amount of work on not only the coordination of patient care, but the back office services, too, like billing, credentialing and payroll,” Leonard said. “As we integrate processes and align protocols and policies, we are developing a new brand and merging two cultures.  We are excited for the opportunities it will present to allow us to continue to provide better, more efficient and more effective care for our patients.”

About two years ago, Nanticoke began the search for a partner to help preserve and build upon the services it provides in Sussex County.

After what Nanticoke Health Services CEO Steve Rose, who is retiring later in January, termed “a long deliberate search” in which several potential partners were considered, Nanticoke sought Peninsula due in large part to similarity of culture and matching vision and values.

That culminated in a signed letter of intent for Nanticoke to affiliate with PRHS.  

On July 15, the boards of both health care systems reached a definitive agreement to affiliate in a membership substitution. Final state and federal regulatory approval would pave the way for rebranding and operations as a single health care system.

In the DRHB’s decision, the Review Committee noted that “both Nanticoke and Peninsula have been recognized for their commitments to patient safety and outstanding quality.  The new health system will build off the strengths of both organizations to promote even higher levels of quality and patient safety.”

Both organizations have a history in Delaware of providing health services to Medicaid patients and the medically indigent.  Post-closing, it is Peninsula’s intent to maintain and enhance the provision of health care services for all residents of western Sussex County, regardless of payor source. Nanticoke provides a broad range of inpatient and outpatient medical and surgical services to the local community through Nanticoke Memorial Hospital as well as a network of ambulatory locations and aligned physicians throughout Sussex County, Delaware and eastern Caroline County, Maryland. Peninsula likewise provides health care services that promote a continuum of care in its service areas. Peninsula provides a full scope of services   that rival those offered in much larger metropolitan areas.

The project will enhance the health status of the user population. This application is for the integration of Nanticoke into Peninsula and does not involve new construction, the state review committee noted.

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