St. Vincent, UAMS Talking Partnership

St. Vincent Health System CEO Peter Banko predicts that in the next few years only two or three large health care networks will exist in Arkansas.

“So we’re trying to position ourselves as one of those,” Banko said.

Last week, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and St. Vincent announced that they had entered into “a nonbinding letter of intent to explore opportunities for an affiliation to deliver collaborative and or integrated services.”

The two said they had been in discussion “for the last several weeks,” “exploring various affiliation opportunities.” They said the letter of intent would allow each to share proprietary information with the other as they consider their options.

On Thursday, Banko told Arkansas Business that during the next couple of months, officials from the state-owned UAMS and St. Vincent, which is operated by Catholic Health Initiatives, would “look at what we could do together and what we couldn’t do together.”

“From my view, everything needs to be on the table,” he said.

Banko said that by working together, both sides can improve access to care, improve quality and reduce duplication of services.

“There are too many open-heart surgery programs in central Arkansas,” he said, citing an example. “I think there’s opportunity to enhance research and education.”

Banko said the next step was for both entities to hire a consultant to examine areas where the two could partner.  

“We want to protect the public identity of UAMS and the Catholic identity of St. Vincent,” Banko said.

In a joint news release, UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn cited numerous challenges the two health care organizations faced, including an aging population, a shortage of health care workers and “the uncertain impact of health care reform.”

“If we are to meet those challenges, we must continue to develop and expand strategic affiliations with other health care organizations that share our vision and values to bring our strengths together to improve outcomes and efficiency in our services and expand training opportunities,” he said in the news release. “We are excited about the opportunities a possible affiliation with St. Vincent could bring.”

Thursday’s statement provided few details. But the health care systems said an affiliation could lead to expanded research opportunities; increased training and education for doctors, nurses and staff; and “the ability to attract world-class physicians, nurses and health care professionals to the state.”

The announcement came a day after UAMS and St. Vincent acknowledged, in a short news release, that they were in talks. It noted that “any affiliation that is pursued will preserve UAMS’ public identity and St. Vincent’s Catholic identity including women’s and reproductive health care services.”


Getting Serious

Banko said that he and Rahn had known each other for a couple of years and had informally talked about collaborating.

“We got to talking and thought it was a good idea to get a little more serious about it,” Banko said.

Part of what sparked discussion was health care reform, which is driving hospitals and physicians to be more effective and efficient.

But what also drove the two sides to begin talks is “we’re neighbors and we need to find ways to collaborate,” Banko said.

Banko said there was no deadline on when something might be announced.

On Aug. 27, Banko told Arkansas Business that the health system was talking with other hospitals and physician groups about joining St. Vincent.

Banko declined to say which groups he was talking with. He said that “we’ll see some partnerships … emerge” within the next year or two.

Banko said last month that Chad S. Aduddell would be CEO of St. Vincent’s flagship hospital, St. Vincent Infirmary. St. Vincent previously didn’t have a CEO position at the hospital.

Banko said that adding Aduddell would give him “the opportunity to spend my time completely focused on building a regional and statewide health network.”