Berger Health System will request voter approval this November to begin the process of changing its ownership structure to a not-for-profit organization.
Berger, one of only two municipal hospitals left in Ohio, is jointly owned by the City of Circleville and Pickaway County and requires voter approval to change its ownership structure.
Berger has a long history of working with OhioHealth and through this partnership, Berger has expanded local cardiology, cancer, and neurological services, increased training and leadership opportunities for clinical staff, and implemented an Electronic Intensive Care Unit to retain patients locally.
“But, we are beginning to reach the limits of success possible under our existing ownership structure,” said Tim Colburn, President and CEO of Berger Health System.
City and County officials have been kept aware of the growing need to change the ownership structure and have encouraged Berger Health System officials to be proactive in protecting the local delivery of care in Pickaway County.
“Berger’s current ownership structure prevents the hospital, and all Pickaway County residents, from enjoying the full range of benefits possible through collaboration with OhioHealth,” says Brian Stewart, President of the Pickaway County Board of Commissioners. “There are additional improvements in healthcare we can bring to our community if Berger’s current ownership structure is changed. We have a special opportunity here to chart our own path forward, long-term.”
A deeper affiliation with OhioHealth is not legally possible under Berger’s current ownership structure. Both Berger and OhioHealth believe care is best delivered locally. The two organizationsalso share a commitment to clinical quality, skilled and dedicated caregivers, and the responsibility of being and remaining major economic contributors in the areas we serve.
System officials cite mounting regulatory pressures and increased competition among the drivers behind the decision.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller rural hospitals to effectively manage the health and wellness of the populations they serve. Like any organization, we must evolve.Our evolution is critical to providing the best care for our patients and to remaining a financially viable long-term partner for our community,” says John Edgar, Berger Health System Board Member and former Logan Elm School District Superintendent.
“The end goal is clear. We must change Berger to a not-for-profit organization so we have the flexibility to more closely align with a larger health system. Our intent is to do this with OhioHealth, as long as acceptable terms can be reached,” says Larry Schieber, Berger Health System Board Member and owner of Schieber Family Pharmacy in Circleville. “Doing so will ensure the future of local care, jobs in our community, and Berger’s role as a vital community partner.”
According to David M. Crawford, president of Circleville City Council, delaying this decision is not an option.
“Small, stand-alone hospitals such as Berger are vulnerable to a rapidly changing healthcare environment, and taking steps now to change the ownership structure will protect our residents’ access to local healthcare and City/County investment for years to come,” said Crawford.
Colburn added, “We have been impressed with the dedication OhioHealth has already demonstrated to our community by their investments in Berger’s local healthcare and we are proud of the many successes we have had with OhioHealth the past few years. In the coming months, we will be engaging with our employees and partners to ensure we’re doing what is best for the City of Circleville and Pickaway County.”