Concerns About An Erlanger In North Carolina - And Response

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I am very surprised and quite concerned, that Erlanger Hospital is seeking to acquire a hospital out of state again,  Not one just across the state line, but one an hour and half away in Murphy, N.C.  It's madness to see how our public hospital, funded by tax dollars, can possibly justify acquiring a money losing hospital.  We all saw daily stories across the media spectrum of the Hutcheson debacle.  One in which the only winners are the lawyers involved.   

Erlanger is a great hospital providing great care.  But in a healthcare environment where there are so many unknowns, Erlanger is on a building and spending spree regardless of the risk.  How is this going to be paid for, and how will it be sustained?  Are North Carolina's taxpayers on the hook if this Murphy experiment fails?  What happens to our local operations if, and probably when, Murphy becomes a drag on the bottom line?   Murphy may be on the outer edge of the service area, but that doesn't mean acquiring a red ink and debt filled hospital is necessary. 

I ask these questions because although Erlanger is a business, it's a business that belongs to us.  Hopefully the board of directors and local officials will ask the tough questions, because I can't think of a worse time for this to happen. 

Sean Flanagan
Chattanooga 

* * *

We appreciate the public interest in Erlanger’s continuing alignment with hospitals throughout our region.  The healthcare industry is undergoing a transformation and small community hospitals throughout the country are seeking partnerships and alignments with academic medical centers like Erlanger Health System.   As the region’s only Level I Trauma Center and critical access system, Erlanger cares for patients throughout a five state area, encompassing 63 contiguous counties that cover more than 50,000 square miles, with more than 40 referring hospitals. 

Erlanger already has affiliation agreements with hospitals in Blue Ridge and Rome, Georgia., and Dayton, Cleveland, Sewanee, Copper Basin and Winchester, Tennessee.  A primary goal of these affiliations is to provide care in the communities where people live, with quick and easy access to Erlanger Health System for specialized services available at a Level I Trauma Center.   

The exploration of this opportunity with Murphy Medical Center is clearly aligned with Erlanger’s mission of being an academic healthcare resource for our broad service area.  We are the closest academic medical center offering primary and secondary medical treatment for adult and pediatric patients, and trauma, stroke, and heart care for those living in and near Murphy, N.C. There are a number of different ways to structure affiliation agreements, including a lease, management agreement or purchase.  During the due diligence period Murphy Medical Center and Erlanger Health System will determine the most effective structure that will best serve our communities and patients.  

Ultimately our goal is to improve population health throughout the region, to decrease the cost of health care and improve care at the same time. By aligning Erlanger and its world-class physicians with regional hospitals, residents in smaller communities are able to be treated where they want and need to be treated - in their own communities. This, in turn, provides more available beds and services for our own residents here in Chattanooga.   

I welcome the opportunity to answer questions about these strategic alliances, as well as the growing trend nationwide of smaller hospitals consolidating and aligning themselves with large academic health systems like Erlanger. Please feel free to email me at robert.brooks@erlanger.org. 

Rob Brooks
EVP & Chief Operating Officer
Erlanger Health System



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