A Healthy Partnership
The Chester County Hospital and Health System joins Penn Medicine
by Jeremy Gerrard

No longer independent, The Chester County Hospital and Health System has become the newest member of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS), Penn Medicine. “We are excited,” says Michael J. Duncan, president and CEO of The Chester County Hospital and Health System. “Morale is really high.”

Independent since first opening its doors in 1892, the hospital system grew to now include the 245-bed hospital complex in West Chester and satellite locations in Exton, West Goshen, New Garden, Jennersville and Kennett Square.

The announcement came in early September and was the culmination of talks started in January between the two organizations on the possibility of forming a strategic corporate alliance. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“Chester County Hospital is a vibrant and exciting organization, and we are pleased to have them join the Penn Health System,” says Ralph W. Muller, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “We have been impressed by their many past successes and look forward to being a part of many more to come in the future.”

With the addition of Chester County Hospital and its facilities, Muller says Philadelphia-based

Penn Medicine is moving toward its goal of expanding its reach across the region. “As one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care, we plan to provide unparalleled access and support to both patients and staff at The Chester County Hospital [and Health System],” Muller adds.

Penn Medicine is comprised of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and its health system made up of about a dozen affiliations. The combined organizations are worth $4.3 billion, according to Penn Medicine. Duncan says Chester County Hospital is looking forward to the connections an alliance with Penn Medicine can provide. “UPHS was a natural partner for us,” Duncan says.

Last August the hospital announced plans it was looking for a partner. The hospital was exploring both nonprofit and for-profit options, as well as the possibility of building a new partnership with other independent hospitals. According to Duncan, the hospital made the decision to explore a partnership because of growing costs. “The problem in the health care market today is that the capital needs are huge, and the rating agencies really don’t think independent hospitals can make it,” he says. “The cost of capital is just too high. We could have maintained who we are, but we couldn’t get access to capital to grow services to Chester County residents.”

Duncan says 16 interested parties emerged as Chester County Hospital searched for a suitor. The hospital eventually narrowed the contenders down to five. After presentations from the remaining parties, the hospital pursued UPHS. Duncan says it was the health system’s philosophy that was most attractive. “We think their approach to managing hospitals fits with our history for being focused on what this community needs,” Duncan says.

The alliance with Penn Medicine will allow the hospital to finish its Tower Project. Recently the hospital embarked on a $45.2 million, three-story patient care tower. The hospital opened the first floor in July. The 93,000-square-foot building is adjacent to and parallel with the hospital’s north pavilion and will include 72 private rooms. With the infusion of additional capital, Duncan says the hospital anticipates finishing the third floor in January 2014 and the second floor six months later.

According to the hospital, the new alliance will expand current programs between Penn Medicine and the hospital system, such as Chester County Hospital’s membership in the Penn Cancer Network. It will also foster additional collaboration between the two entities, allowing the identification of new programs and technologies that can be offered to the community.

“For 120 years, we have served our community with the highest quality health care,” says William Wylie Jr., chairman of the hospital’s board of directors. “And now, as one of Penn’s prestigious hospitals, we will have the resources, knowledge and expertise of one of the top academic health systems in the country right here in Chester County.”

In addition to the added floors in the Tower Project, the alliance aims to increase the “depth and breadth” of its services, including adding more surgeons to deliver care. Duncan says the hospital will also be able to treat patients with a larger variety of cancers. “This is an exciting time for our organization,” Duncan says. “We will now blend the best of Chester County Hospital with the remarkable achievements of Penn Medicine to create one of the leading hospitals in the Philadelphia suburbs.”

For additional information, visit ChesterCountyHospital.org/Penn.

Reprinted with permission by the
Daily Local News. Photography courtesy of Vinny Tennis.