published Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Siskin to acquire St. Barnabas; Chattanooga nursing facility will make hospital a 'one stop shop'

  • photo
    St. Barnabas Healthcare Center is seen Monday in Chattanooga. The center was bought by Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation and St. Barnabas Healthcare Center have long been linked by a bridge and a parking lot.

But largely, the two not-for-profit entities always operated independently -- until now.

Siskin announced plans Monday to acquire the 108-bed skilled nursing facility within the coming months, expanding its continuum of rehabilitative care.

"It makes sense for both organizations. I believe the future will push us to take a look at how we provide post-acute services in the most cost-effective manner," said Carol Sim, CEO of the 109-bed Siskin hospital. "We want to make sure people are getting the nursing services and therapy services to get them well and get them home. But the environment is demanding that we make sure that is done in the least expensive, most efficient manner."

Citing St. Barnabas' "long, rich history of providing care for seniors in the Chattanooga area," the center's CEO David Wildgen said there is "enormous potential" in the shift.

"Coming under the Siskin Hospital umbrella is a major step in the right direction for the future of St. Barnabas," Wildgen said in a statement. "We see many positives, especially in terms of adapting to the changes in health care and meeting patient expectations."

Bringing the two facilities together creates what Sim calls "a full buffet of options" for people at various stages of rehabilitation -- from those needing intensive, acute services at Siskin; to those requiring sub-acute beds that already exist at both facilities; to those needing Siskin's outpatient rehab or St. Barnabas' long-term residential care.

Soon, hospital officials say, they hope to offer a "one-stop shop," where the patient can call a single number and the hospital can find the best bed match based on prognosis, insurance and other factors.

That consolidation of services under one provider is becoming more common -- and more necessary, providers say -- in a changing health care landscape that requires they provide more services with less reimbursement.

"There's a lot of cost pressure as Medicare is ratcheting back what they are willing to pay. To the extent that organizations can become more cost-efficient by becoming larger, that's a very important factor," Sim said.

Additionally, there is increased hype about bundling services, where acute care hospitals get paid for an episode of care, then parse out payment for the post-acute side.

More streamlined, comprehensive services being delivered through one organization could make Siskin "a more interesting partner [for commercial insurers and hospitals] if and when bundling comes through," Sim said.

The process to acquire St. Barnabas began while former Siskin CEO Bob Main was still heading up the rehabilitative hospital, said Sim -- who has just wrapped up her first month with Siskin.

The transaction is still subject to customary closing conditions, as well as review by the Tennessee Attorney General's office and the Tennessee Division of Healthcare Facilities. Still, the acquisition is expected to be completed in the coming months, Sim said. The purchase amount has not been disclosed.

Once the acquisition is completed, the nursing facility's name will become St. Barnabas at Siskin Hospital. At this point, the plan is for St. Barnabas staff to become Siskin employees.

Sim said the organizations are still trying to determine how they will reorganize physicians, nurses and other staff within the two facilities.

"We want to make sure we leverage the talents on both sides of the street -- or parking lot, in this case," Sims said.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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