Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
By Shelley Grieshop
Local hospitals will jointly expand Celina center
  COLDWATER - Competing hospitals in Coldwater and St. Marys are joining forces to own and operate an existing medical facility that is currently being expanded in Celina.
The surprise announcement was made Wednesday evening following a one hour and 15-minute executive session involving the board of governors and board of trustees for the Coldwater hospital, a division of Mercer Health.
Mercer Health CEO Jim Wermert said the joint venture involves the creation of two nonprofit corporations - one to provide ownership and one to operate the Celina Medical Center at 801 Pro Drive.
The center currently is owned by Grand Lake Health Systems, the parent company of Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys.   
The facility, directly behind the regional cancer center in Celina, is under renovation to more than double its size to approximately 25,000 square feet for mainly physician office space. Construction is expected to be complete by early 2008, making it an estimated $3.5 million facility, according to Martin Dodrill, director of marketing and development for Grand Lake Health Systems.
The hospitals plan to share laboratory and imaging equipment, as well as provide new services in the future, officials said.
"We (officials from both hospitals) didn't think it made sense for both of us to spend money for the same services for the same people. We'll still compete," Wermert said, adding the venture will create a more financially-responsible way to spend the public's money.
The Coldwater hospital is a nonprofit, township-owned facility; the St. Marys hospital also is a nonprofit facility but is privately owned.
Kevin Harlan, president and CEO of Grand Lake Health Systems, said teaming up with the Coldwater-based health system is a winning idea for everyone.
"The cooperative effort will greatly enhance medical services in our community," Harlan said. "We will be able to provide more services in an efficient manner without costly duplicates. It will be a win-win scenario for Grand Lake Health Systems, Mercer Health and the community."
Although the logistics of ownership and operation are not final, Wermert said acquiring an equal 50 percent share of the Celina Medical Center building will give Mercer Health needed space for physician offices. Currently, most of Mercer Health's contracted physicians are located in the Community Medical Center (the Doctors' Urgent Care building south of Celina), which is tight on space, Wermert noted for an earlier story.
The terms of the proposed joint venture include the establishment of a nonprofit corporation as a real estate holding company, exempt from federal income taxation to hold the title to the building and real estate. The second corporation, also nonprofit, may be exempt from federal income taxation depending upon its activities. It also will be the entity responsible for the business activities performed at the site.
Each corporation will have a board of directors comprised of an equal number appointed by each hospital, with all decision-making shared equally. The chairperson and other key officers representing the boards will rotate on an annual basis from both hospitals.
Financially, both hospitals will have equal investments and financial obligations to the new corporations. Staffing also will be done jointly and may involve the use of existing hospital employees or the hiring of new employees, as appropriate.
Mercer Health Board of Trustees President Don Kahlig of Fort Recovery said the venture was given the thumbs up by all 21 trustees present Wednesday night.
"I think this could really help us draw physicians to the area," he said. "I also believe it's a healthy idea for the people in the Celina area."
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