Regional Medical Center is set to start operating Stringfellow Memorial Hospital Monday, but patients might be unable to tell at first.
RMC administrators said Friday that the deal was finalized and they’d take operational control of their longtime Anniston competitor Monday, as was planned about two months ago. RMC has appointed a new CEO for Stringfellow, but other than a few cosmetic changes, services there should remain the same, hospital officials said.
“When patients walk in the door on Monday, I don’t think they’ll notice a difference,” said Louis Bass, CEO of RMC.
RMC administrators announced the $25 million deal March 3, including $12 million to buy Stringfellow’s operating contract from Tennessee-based Community Health Systems. Another $13 million will cover the remaining 32 years on the lease of the Stringfellow property from the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama. The contract is set to close Sunday and become effective Monday.
According to RMC, the deal makes RMC Health System the largest not-for-profit health care provider in northeast Alabama. As of Monday, the system will include 323 inpatient beds at RMC in Anniston, 104 inpatient beds at RMC Jacksonville, 125 acute care beds at Stringfellow, numerous outpatient facilities and physician offices and more than 2,200 employees, 300 volunteers and 200 physicians.
RMC officially announced Friday that Stringfellow’s new CEO would be Joe Weaver, currently the CEO of RMC Jacksonville for more than two years.
“Joe has consistently demonstrated extraordinary leadership and executive management skills in every role he’s held while at RMC for the past eight years,” Bass said. “We are thrilled that he will help chart the course during this exciting time as we begin our journey to fully align our organizations and improve collaboration of care across our communities.”
Bass said a decision hadn’t yet been made on who would replace Weaver at the Jacksonville hospital.
“We’ll have someone pegged internally next week for the Jacksonville job,” Bass said Thursday.
Bass said there would also be some other administrative changes at Stringfellow in the coming days.
“Keep in mind that all the top leadership at Stringfellow were only there for the interim,” Bass said.
Bass said most of the changes at Stringfellow in the following week would be cosmetic. For instance, the building’s signs will keep the Stringfellow Memorial Hospital name, but will carry RMC’s logo.
“As far as services, all patients will see will be folks walking around with RMC badges,” Bass said.
Weaver said he didn't expect any major changes at Stringfellow, at least in the short term.
“We’re starting things out business as usual,” Weaver said.
Weaver said RMC hired a consulting firm several weeks ago to help it maximize efficiency at Stringfellow, along with its main Anniston and Jacksonville campuses.
“We want to ensure we cover virtually any need any patient in the five-county area might have,” Weaver said.
RMC has made several changes at Jacksonville’s hospital since buying it more than four years ago. Administrators closed the Jacksonville hospital’s intensive care unit in 2013 and ended OB-GYN services in 2014 there because of high cost and lack of demand. Meanwhile, officials added beds at RMC Jacksonville last year to treat more elderly patients with mental health and behavioral symptoms.
Weaver said the main challenge in the short term will be getting the two hospitals to work together.
“We’ll work to merge the two hospital cultures into one,” Weaver said. “In the end, it’s all about what is best for the patients.”