Three organizations picked as possible Carson-Tahoe Hospital affiliates

Three health companies were announced Thursday as potential partners for Carson-Tahoe Hospital.

Triad, Universal Health Systems and Sutter are the health-care organizations being considered for affiliation, according to the hospital's marketing operations executive, Richard Linkul. The announcement was made at the hospital's board of trustees meeting Thursday evening.

Affiliation with one of these groups could lead to a long-term relationship intended to keep Carson-Tahoe financially strong and technologically able to meet health care needs here.

The three contenders:

n Triad, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is a spinoff of the Columbia Hospital system, at one time one of the largest in the West. With hospitals located throughout the United States, the organization specializes in hospitals of the same size and market as Carson-Tahoe.

n Universal Health Systems, based in King of Prussia, Penn., is affiliated with three hospitals in Las Vegas, as well as Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks. This partnership, according to Carson-Tahoe's Chief Executive Officer Steve Smith, would create the strongest health system in the state.

One advantage to affiliation with this group would be the fact that Carson-Tahoe presently cannot bid for certain state employee contracts, because it cannot offer services in Washoe and Clark counties. This affiliation would give both Carson-Tahoe and Universal the advantage of offering more complete services statewide.

n Exclusive to California, Sutter is a not-for-profit organization that concentrates heavily in Northern California and controls about half the markets in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas, according to Smith. It also owns hospitals in Auburn, Roseville and Amador. Affiliation with Carson-Tahoe would signal their first move into the

Nevada market.

The possibilities of a buy-out, lease-and-manage, or simple management type of affiliation have been thrown on the bargaining table, and all options are being considered. But Smith emphasized that continued service to the community is the first consideration.

Carson-Tahoe offers these organizations access to a growing market, and a hospital with a solid financial base, according to Smith.

The affiliation committee is considering the three entities over local hospitals such as St. Mary's and Washoe Medical Center because those hospitals would likely ship patients to Reno for the most profitable procedures.

"We'd still just be a county hospital," Smith said. "The affiliation committee's concern is that everybody else around here (local hospitals) wants our market; they don't want us. The organizations that we have selected don't want to take our patients anywhere. They want them to be seen here. They also have deeper pockets, and more resources - not just money but consultants."

He also said he does not expect referral patterns to change. Cardiac surgery and neurosurgery would still be referred to Washoe Medical Center and burn patients would still be sent to the Burn Center in Las Vegas.

With these affiliations, Smith sees real growth as a possibility.

"They are promising to increase our market share," Smith said, noting one of the primary focuses in the search was finding an affiliate that would not take services or patients away from the hospital.

Linkul said site visits with the organizations are scheduled for Aug. 2-4 and 9. The field will be narrowed sometime before the end of August.

Mayoral candidate Tom Keeton urged Smith not to overlook the possibility of funding the $63 million sought by Carson-Tahoe for capital improvements through the county and foregoing the affiliation process altogether to keep control of health services in the hands of locals.

"Be very assured that this is not a foregone conclusion," Smith said. "We may not affiliate with anybody."


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