Citizens, nursing centers to create health care alliance

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Feb. 4, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 4, 2014 at 8:05 p.m.

Citizens Medical Center has joined forces with 12 locally owned skilled nursing facilities.

Owners of six TAG Management Services facilities and six Regency-managed facilities have agreed to lease their buildings to Citizens Medical Center so the hospital can obtain operating licenses.

In turn, Citizens has agreed to hire Regency and TAG to continue managing the day-to-day operations of their respective facilities.

No money was exchanged between the hospital and the nursing facilities.

"The primary problem today is that the health care delivery system is siloed," said Heber Lacerda, president of Regency Post-Acute Healthcare System. "This will open communication and establish an improved continuum of care for patients."

The improved communication began in October when the providers started working on the partnership.

The agreement officially goes into effect March 1 when the paperwork is approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"Patients have already seen an easier transition between facilities," said Stephen Thames, chief executive officer of Citizens Medical Center.

The joint venture will also reduce hospital readmission, said Phillip Hopkins, president of TAG Management Services.

"Communication improves timeliness of services and cuts documentation errors on both sides," Hopkins said. "We become talking caregivers instead of siloed providers."

Doctors at the hospital were not involved in patients' care once they were discharged to nursing centers, which disrupted the continued care, Thames said. And doctors at nursing centers were not part of the patients' care once they entered the hospital.

"We are encouraged by the federal government to form alliances to avoid rehospitalization and provide savings by maximizing efficiencies," Lacerda said.

This is the first of many steps, Lacerda said Tuesday.

Ideally, alliances will grow to include assisted living facilities, hospices, home health agencies and other providers.

"This is not about exclusivity; it's about enhanced care in the area," Lacerda said. "Citizens is the hub, but Regency will make similar arrangements with smaller hospitals in the areas where our facilities are located as well as DeTar."

The joint effort marks the first time in 20 years in Victoria that health care providers have joined together to ensure better transitions for all involved, according to a news release.

"We believe that through joint efforts between different segments of our health care delivery system, there will be greater coordination of resources to meet the needs of our patient population," Thames said in a news release.

New health care models are under consideration in other cities, but Citizens Medical Center, TAG Management Services and Regency are taking action, Thames said.

"We have the tools to get this done, and we are making it happen," Thames said.



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