St. Mary's Hospital Joins MedStar Health-Care Network

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 27, 2009

St. Mary's Hospital has merged with MedStar Health, making it the only Southern Maryland hospital in the health-care network.

St. Mary's Hospital, the only hospital in St. Mary's County, sought out MedStar to prepare for the hospital's long-term future, said Christine Wray, the hospital's president. MedStar, based in Columbia, is the Washington region's largest nonprofit health-care system.

The merger, announced Tuesday, will help in recruiting physicians, gaining access to more specialty doctors and tapping into physical and financial resources, Wray said.

"However health-care reform changes our industry, clearly there will be a focus on reducing costs, but there is a focus on how to better coordinate care with the patient in mind," she said. "Wherever the patient flows, it will be better in a larger, integrated health-care system, which MedStar Health is."

The merger has been approved by both organization's boards and will become effective at the end of this month.

The first order of business will be to begin an assessment and planning process, in which leaders of MedStar and St. Mary's Hospital will discuss the community's needs and the hospital's growth in areas such as technology, service and staffing.

"We are trying to develop services here so people don't have to leave the community," Wray said.

It will be possible to strengthen referral relationships throughout the MedStar system, and employees will be able to share information on best practices, she said.

"I really believe folks got into this business because folks want to take care of the community," said Ken Samet, president and chief executive of MedStar Health. "This helps them do their important role so much better."

St. Mary's Hospital will be linked to MedStar's other eight hospitals, which include Georgetown University Hospital, Washington Hospital Center and Montgomery General Hospital, in addition to its 100 outpatient centers and other services, Samet said.

The residency and fellowship programs at MedStar hospitals will offer physicians in training exposure to the St. Mary's area while keeping them connected to the larger network, Samet said.

"I hope they will be very attracted to working in a wonderful area like St. Mary's County, but [they] are connected to a much broader enterprise that will help them in their own development," he said.

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