Patients will not notice a change in services or branding if a St. Louis-based health care group takes over two Memorial hospitals in the metro-east, according to a company spokeswoman.
If the state board that regulates hospitals approves a request from BJC HealthCare, the St. Louis-based group would become the sole owner of Memorial Group, which operates three hospitals in the metro-east in Belleville, Shiloh and Alton, along with more than a dozen doctors offices.
Services are not expected to change within at least two years of the change in ownership, according to the application filed with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. Alton Memorial Hospital is not part of the application filed.
“Memorial will continue to provide high quality health care services to the patients and communities we serve and will be able to take advantage of the benefits that come from being a part of the BJC HealthCare family of hospitals,” Memorial spokeswoman Anne Thomure said in an emailed statement. “Memorial Hospital Belleville and Memorial Hospital East are still community hospitals whose mission is to provide exceptional health care and compassionate service.”
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Patients will still be able to see their same doctors under the new organization, Thomure added. The Memorial brand will also remain the same, she said. Financial advantages gained through the new ownership could lead to “opportunity for additional health care providers to affiliate with Memorial,” Thomure said.
No doctors offices or hospitals will close if BJC takes ownership, according to the Memorial spokeswoman.
Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said he looks forward to working with BJC HealthCare. “BJC is an outstanding hospital system,” he said.
Eckert said Memorial has reinvested over the years in capital improvements to the Belleville hospital and he expects the hospital to stay open.
“They’ve been doing that for years and years,” he said of the renovations.
Tuesday is the deadline to request a public hearing to consider the change in ownership, but Memorial does not expect a hearing, Thomure said.
The change in ownership is meant to simplify the corporation’s organizational structure, according to hospital officials. BJC would become the sole owner of Memorial Regional Health Services, Inc., which is a nonprofit organization currently jointly governed by Memorial and BJC HealthCare.
The change will save money for the corporation, the application states, through increased buying power and negotiating power. The savings should transfer to patients, but the corporation had not identified exactly how much either the company or patients will save when they submitted the application.
Memorial hospitals will remain the owners of the facilities, according to the application. They will also maintain their own operation licenses. The corporation had to apply for a “certificate of exemption” from the state board as part of the takeover process. Exemptions are needed when a hospital changes ownership, for discontinuing services or in the case of a hospital closure, according to the board’s website.
Under the former organization, Memorial represented half of the parent company’s board members. If the ownership change is approved, sitting members on the board will nominate replacement members, and the BJC CEO Steven Lipstein will choose board members from the nominees, according to the application. Memorial will continue to have a member serve on the BJC board of directors, as well as have “some representation on some BJC committees,” according to the Memorial spokeswoman.
The takeover was a part of BJC’s original plan two years ago, Thomure said. “Requirements and obligations” under the plan were met early, Thomure said, allowing the takeover to move forward. Company leaders initially expected the requirements to take as long as five years to be fulfilled.
Memorial has said the closure of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville would put undue stress on Belleville Memorial, but the spokeswoman said “filing of the Certificate of Exemption is not related to this issue.”
BJC owns Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Christian Health Services Development Corporation, Missouri Baptist Medical Center, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Progress West Hospital.
News-Democrat reporter Mike Koziatek contributed to this article.
A timeline of Memorial and BJC hospital history
- Jan. 1, 2018: If BJC’s application is approved by the state health board, BJC will become the sole owner of Memorial effective Jan. 1 as the only corporate member of Memorial Regional Health Services.
- Dec. 5, 2017: Deadline for a member of the public to request a public hearing to consider the change in ownership. Memorial does not expect there to be a public hearing.
- Nov. 17, 2017: BJC applies to take over ownership of Memorial.
- August 2015: The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board approves a change of ownership from Protestant Memorial Medical Center, or Memorial Hospital-East, to Memorial Regional Health Services, Inc. That service group has two corporate members: Memorial Group and BJC Healthcare.
- May 1992: BJC HealthCare is founded.
- October 1985: Memorial Group is founded.
- August 1947: Protestant Memorial Medical Center, Inc., now known as Memorial Hospital in Belleville, is founded. The hospital was later opened in May 1958, according to Memorial’s website.