ValleyCare, Sharon Regional sold

Boston health system takes over ownership

By Kalea Hall

Friday, February 17, 2017

By Kalea Hall

khall@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

After six years of ownership, Community Health Systems has sold its stake in Mahoning and Shenango valley hospitals.

The Tennessee-based hospital system announced the sale of ValleyCare Health System of Ohio to Steward Health Care System of Boston late Thursday afternoon.

ValleyCare consists of 355-bed Northside Medical Center in Youngstown; 311-bed Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren; and 69-bed Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland.

CHS also sold the 258-bed Sharon Regional Health System in Sharon, Pa.; the 254-bed Easton Hospital in Easton, Pa.; and three hospitals in Florida.

CHS did not release how much it will receive from these sales but said the proceeds, when the sale is complete at the end of the second quarter, will cover its debts.

“Our hospital plays a crucial role in providing convenient and quality health care for our patients,” said John Walsh, chief executive officer of Trumbull Memorial Hospital, in a statement. “Steward Health Care will help us maintain our critical position as an anchor institution and employer in the community.”

CHS purchased Forum Health system, formerly ValleyCare, out of bankruptcy in October 2010 for $120 million. Last September, the company said it would sell off several hospitals but didn’t name all of them at that time. CHS owns, leases or operates 158 hospitals in 22 states.

Steward Health Care will offer employment to all active employees in “good standing” when the transaction is complete, according to the purchase agreement with CHS.

Steward Health Care is a physician-led health care services organization and community hospital network with 3,000 physicians, 10 hospital campuses and 24 affiliated urgent-care provider locations, according to its website.

“We are looking forward to affiliating with ValleyCare Health System of Ohio,” said Dr. Michael Callum, Steward executive vice president for physician services, in a news release. “We look forward to continuing and furthering that strong community focus, and we are excited to work with hospital leaders in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition for ValleyCare Health System of Ohio staff and patients.”

Union representatives at Northside and TMH were surprised to hear about the sale, since no one had formally announced it to them before it was released to the public.

“We are more than willing to work with a new system,” said Laurie Hornberger, president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association. Hornberger, a registered nurse, said YGDNA represents 210 registered nurses at Northside.

“We always knew that there was a potential for a sale,” she said.

Hornberger hopes Steward shares the same beliefs as the nurses do in offering quality care to patients and serving the community.

Tom Connelly, registered nurse and president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Local 2026, who represents 450 registered nurses at Trumbull Memorial, was overjoyed the hospital was purchased.

Recently, the nurses felt like they could not take care of patients like they wanted, Connelly said.

“All of sudden when CHS started getting into trouble, it just seemed like we were operating on a shoestring,” he said. “Our staffing levels were not being met. We don’t feel like we are doing as good as we could, and we would like to do better. If this gives us the opportunity to do that, we welcome that.”