Published: 2008-11-30 11:36:35
Author: Jeff Mores, Benton County Daily Record, November 4, 2008
ROGERS - Almost immediately after hearing Rogers-based Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas announce last month that it would cut its outpatient therapy services program, Allen Kilgore picked up the phone.
Kilgore, president of Cornerstone Healthcare, which currently has 70 therapists in its various locations and manages Highland Health and Rehabilitation Center in Bella Vista and Ashley Health and Rehabilitation Center in Rogers, was interested in finding a solution that would keep those services from dissolving.
On Monday, Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas announced it has developed a partnership with Cornerstone Health that will not only keep outpatient therapy services housed at the Mercy Health Center facility on Southeast 14 th Street in Bentonville, but allow staff members who run those programs to keep their jobs.
"When I heard about the announcement (of Mercy closing its outpatient therapy services ), I was shocked," Kilgore said. "I've been a patient and benefited from their services on several occasions. There are some exceptional professionals there - doing exceptional work. I did not want to see this community hurt by losing such qualified people. This was a very good opportunity for my company to work with the hospital to preserve that basis."
The partnership formed between Mercy and Cornerstone, which will go into effect Nov. 15, will allow the therapists to continue working together under the Mercy name and serve the patients they have been treating. Under the terms of the agreement, Cornerstone will employ the therapists and manage the operations, while Mercy will retain the naming rights, continue billing responsibilities and utilize the electronic medical record system used within Mercy.
"Instead of transitioning patients and co-workers, Mercy is pleased to arrive at an arrangement that will keep Mercy's outpatient therapy services open and active," said Mercy CEO George Flynn. "This is a best-case scenario for all parties involved - Mercy, Cornerstone Healthcare, Mercy's therapy patients and the outpatient therapists."
"We're very excited," Mercy Chief Operating Officer Jon Vitiello said. "This partnership is similar to what occurred about a year ago, when Mercy announced some program closures with hospice, adult daycare and Tree of Life. Individuals from the community approached us at that time, and the same happened with Mr. Kilgore this time. What we've learned from this - Mercy and the community need to be in partnership at all times. We all have limited resources, so it's about putting our creative minds together."
On Oct. 3, Mercy had announced it would be cutting 61
positions - 41 full time and 20 part time - within its northwest
Arkansas organization, the majority of which are included in outpatient
therapy services. Vitiello said those cuts were necessary from a
cost-control and financialmanagement standpoint. At the time of the
October announcement, he said increases in the cost of providing health
care, coupled with diminishing reimbursement had been festering for
some time, even though traffic volume is up in nearly every area of
Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas since the opening of its new
Mercy Medical Center along Interstate 540 in Rogers earlier this year.