Arlington Heights-based Northwest Community Healthcare's board has decided not to pursue any possible mergers, ending months of speculation of whether the hospital would partner with other major players.
CEO Stephen O. Scogna told employees in a memo that the board of directors looked into possible partnerships to "meet the future needs" of its organization but instead voted against pursuing such a strategy at its April 29 meeting.
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The board believes "that NCH is best equipped to meet the future needs of our community by having the flexibility to be innovative and nimble in the current health care environment," said Scogna, who became CEO last week, replacing the retiring Bruce Crowther.
As the hospital prepares for changes related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Northwest Community plans to focus "on enhancing our partnerships with our physicians to better integrate our efforts to deliver the highest quality care to our communities. This will include coordination with other independent health care organizations to allow NCH to thrive in the provision of accountable care," Scogna said in the memo.
Scogna said he's glad the board made such a decision and Northwest Community will ensure that "decisions are made locally and with the sole purpose of delivering quality health care to the communities that we serve. We believe this is critical so that we can stay before the curve and remain responsive to the needs of our patients, employees and doctors," Scogna said.
Scogna, who declined interviews, is focusing on his transition as CEO this week and meeting about 3,800 employees to get their input and to share his vision for the future, spokesman Patrick Whitty said. Meetings with employees will be held Tuesday and Thursday.
Northwest Community has a history of seeking merger partners and then changing its mind.
In March 2010, the Daily Herald reported that NCH said it was eager to acquire other health care organizations after it had bought Riverwoods-based Affinity Healthcare. That action made the group's physicians direct employees of the hospital for the first time. Doctors traditionally have not been employees and were instead associated with a number of hospitals, where they would examine patients or perform surgeries.
Northwest Community reorganized in September 2012 to emphasize outpatient services, a move then-CEO Crowther said was not an indication that the hospital was doing poorly or would have to merge with another health system to survive.
But by January, Northwest Community said it was seeking another health care partner for a possible merger or alliance. A spokeswoman at that time would not provide names. The hospital board had continued to talk with various health care organizations to explore different relationships, representatives said at the time. One rumored suitor was Oak Brook-based Advocate Health Care, which had declined to comment at the time.
Northwest Community's latest decision is contrary to other hospitals that have merged, including Naperville-based Edward Hospital & Health Services and Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare, announced in January.
Others mergers in the last couple of years include Cadence Health, formed after the merger of Delnor Health System in Geneva and Central DuPage Health System in Winfield. Provena Health and Resurrection Health Care also merged into Presence Health Care.
In October 2005, documents from the Federal Trade Commission showed that Evanston, Highland Park and Northwest Community hospitals previously had discussed a potential merger as far back as 1996. Those talks broke down in 1997 due to "personality conflicts and a lack of interest on the part of Northwest Community," an FTC document said.
In 1998, Highland Park Hospital saw Northwest Community as a potential merger partner again, the FTC document said.