Akron hospital kills for-profit chain's takeover bid

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Akron General Health System in Ohio has nixed a takeover deal involving the Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, a for-profit hospital chain with a history of cost-cutting practices that can harm patient care.

The Ohio Nurses Association, which represents nurses at Akron General and Northside Medical Center in nearby Youngstown, has urged the award-winning community hospital to think twice about any partnership involving CHS, which is the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice probe related to its admissions practices from emergency departments. ONA is an AFT affiliate.

Nurses have expressed deep concern that any deal involving CHS could affect quality care at Akron General. That's because CHS has a reputation for trying to force contract demands on nurses that could lead to the rationing of nursing care and could potentially deny nurses the right to speak out on future patient-care issues. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer covered the story in more detail.)

Akron General President and CEO Thomas Stover confirmed that talks about a CHS-Cleveland Clinic partnership, which had been taking place since August, are dead.

The decision by Akron General comes on the heels of the AFT's challenge to the proposed merger of CHS and the Florida-based Health Management Associates. At an HMA shareholders meeting, the AFT urged shareholders to vote "no" on the CHS merger because CHS, like HMA, is the subject of a federal probe. (See related story.)

The AFT also questioned how the proposed merger, given CHS' record, would impact quality care. The AFT suggested that HMA would be better served if resources dedicated to the merger—including golden parachute bonuses promised to top brass—were instead invested in quality care.

The decision by Akron General to reject a deal involving CHS will enable the hospital to focus time and resources into improving patient care, engaging with the community and treating nurses as valued partners.

More information about Community Health Systems is available at CHSwatch.org [Scott Stephens, Cleveland Plain Dealer]

January 14, 2014