HealthPartners’ decision will not affect U-Fairview’s plans

Joel Sawyer

The merger between University Hospital and Fairview Health System will not be jeopardized by HealthPartners’ decision Monday to refer fewer patients to Fairview Riverside Medical Center, University officials say.
University officials said the merger is still necessary to help confront the problems facing the University’s Academic Health Center, which consists of seven health care schools and University Hospital and Clinics.
“We’re moving ahead with the merger,” said Terry Bock, assistant to the Academic Health Center provost. “We’re disappointed,” he said, but added the decision was not a surprise.
University officials said the merger, which was approved by the Board of Regents last week, is an attempt to preserve the education and research mission of the health center.
Without the merger, University officials said, the financially ailing University Hospital would not be able to provide the patient volume needed to train and educate University health center faculty members and students and would have to close.
About 20 percent of Fairview Riverside’s patient base could be lost because of the decision by HealthPartners — one of the Minnesota’s largest managed-care organizations — to shift referral of many of its patients from Fairview Riverside Medical Center to Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.
This patient loss will not impair the education and research mission of the University’s Academic Health Center, University officials say.
“I don’t think (HealthPartners’ decision) will have any adverse effect on the number of patients available for educational, or research activities, or have any adverse effect on the financial picture on the merger,” said Dr. Roby Thompson, an orthopedic surgeon who has been intimately involved in the merger discussions.
Fairview Riverside Medical Center Chief Administrator Pam Tibbetts said about half of HealthPartners’ current Fairview patients will remain at Fairview Riverside Medical Center. HealthPartners will keep its obstetrical, neonatal, chemical dependency and mental health patients at Fairview.
Tibbetts said finding new revenue and patients to fill the void left by HealthPartners should not be difficult. “People are getting pretty excited,” by the merger with University Hospital, she said. “We’re getting multiple calls from payers and physicians groups (that) want to affiliate with the new center.”