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Fulton County Hospital Gets a Partner: White River Health System

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White River Health System in Batesville has agreed to help Fulton County Hospital save money and improve health care by entering into an affiliation agreement.

The affiliation, which was announced April 5, is the latest in a string of partnerships formed by hospitals with the aim of saving money.

Fulton County Hospital CEO Charles Willett contacted White River earlier this year to see if there were ways to work together, said Gary Bebow, the CEO of White River.

“They’re challenged with the same things that all the rest of us are,” Bebow said. “And we’re more than happy to help them.”

Under the agreement, the 25-bed hospital in Salem could use a number of White River’s services and connections to save money. White River is part of a group purchasing agreement that Fulton County Hospital could tap into, Bebow said.

In addition, White River, which has a 224-bed hospital, could provide Fulton County with marketing services and a physician recruiter.

The goal of the affiliation is to improve the quality and efficiency of health care delivered to Fulton County residents.

In addition to help with purchasing, the two organizations will collaborate to bring specialty services to Fulton County, such as cardiology, dermatology and neurology, Bebow said.

He said some of White River’s specialists could travel to Fulton County to deliver care.

“Part of this deal is to help them identify some specialty services in the area that haven’t been provided previously,” Bebow said.

The hospitals will remain independent. “There will be no change in the ownership or administrative leadership,” White River said in a news release announcing the arrangement.

Willett said in the news release that it’s becoming harder for hospitals like Fulton County to remain independent.

“Our affiliation with WRHS is an important step for our organization to achieve our goal of providing quality medical care and maintaining local ownership and leadership,” he said.

Fulton County Hospital reported net patient revenue of $9 million and a net income of $1.4 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014, the most recent figure immediately available to Arkansas Business.

Willett didn’t returns calls for comment.

Paul Cunningham, executive vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, said that shared service arrangements aren’t out of the ordinary. “Things like this have been going on for the last 25-30 years,” he said.

In October, a partnership formed by some of the biggest health care organizations in Arkansas expects to save its members millions of dollars. The Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas is owned equally by Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Baptist Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, all in Little Rock, St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro and Washington Regional Medical System in Fayetteville.

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