Merger of Peninsula and Nanticoke health systems becomes official

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Nanticoke Health Services Seaford and Peninsula Regional Health System (PRHS), based in Salisbury, MD, announced that the affiliation of the two health services has passed final state and federal regulatory approval.

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, the Nanticoke Physician Network, and all other Nanticoke healthcare services have joined the Peninsula Regional Health System. McCready Health of Crisfield, MD, is expected to merge later this year.

The merger is expected to spur competition for patients in Sussex County. Peninsula already has physician practices and other sites, in Sussex, with Nanticoke giving Peninsula a lock on the western portion of the county.

Beebe Healthcare in Coastal Sussex County has launched a major expansion program. Dover-based Bayhealth opened a new hospital last year on the northern edge of Sussex County in Milford and has plans to expand into the fast-growing coastal area that has a growing population of retirees.

Nanticoke, under now-retired CEO Steven Rose, successfully dealt with issues that threaten rural hospitals throughout the nation, but remained boxed in by larger health care systems.

Meanwhile, Peninsula was seeing opportunities for expansion limited by the massive University of Maryland health system snapping up hospitals on the Eastern and Upper shores of the state.

To the north on Maryland’s Upper Shore, the parent of Elkton’s Union Hospital, is in talks to affiliate with northern-Delaware-based ChristianaCare, one of the nation’s 30 largest health care systems. A plan by Union to affiliate with a Baltimore-based health care system fell through.

ChristianaCare has also moved south with an emergency center and offices in fast-growing Middletown. The center is on a large tract that could one day accommodate a hospital.

“Healthcare 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, 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.”

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. The new name will be revealed in late spring.

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.

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.

“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 healthcare it deserves for years to come.”

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 eventually share one electronic medical record.

There are no immediate plans for staffing changes, although financial and other functions would be consolidated. The new health system will have nearly 5,000 employees.

“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.”

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