A partnership between Fishermen’s Community Hospital and Baptist Health South Florida, the largest health-care organization in the region, could mean increased services at the community-owned hospital beginning next year.
The two are expected to become affiliated in 2017, according to Peter Chapman, president of the Fisherman’s Community Hospital Board of Trustees.
Baptist operates seven hospitals and multiple outpatient and urgent-care facilities, among other medical centers. The closest to Marathon is Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.
What the future partnership means for the 25-bed critical-access hospital in Marathon is increased services, Fishermen’s and Baptist officials say. Chapman said the medical staff would most likely have the opportunity to remain and that the board of trustees will also remain.
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Wayne Brackin, chief operating officer of Baptist, said it still needs to be determined which services the community wants to keep and what services they want.
“We would look forward to working with the community to assess what those might be,” he said.
Brackin could not discuss what the partnership means for an average patient in terms of costs because it’s too early to tell. He also did not specify whether Mariners would be involved with Fishermen’s in the future.
Chapman said the board sought out Baptist because “it’s becoming harder and harder for standalone community hospitals to survive and you need to have the bigger-scale efficiencies that Baptist can provide.”
In 2010, the board of Fishermen’s selected Tennessee-based Quorum Health Resources to manage the nonprofit facility. Quorum would no longer manage the hospital should Baptist and Fishermen’s become affiliated.
Hal Leftwich, chief executive officer of Fishermen’s, declined to comment.
“We’re very early in the stages, but we’d become an affiliate of the Baptist system and they would have their own management in place,” Chapman said. “We employed Quorum to provide management services and that will continue for a period while we sort out exactly how to structure the affiliation with Baptist.”
Quorum replaced Health Management Associates, which had a lease on the hospital from 1986 to 2010. At that time, Baptist Health South Florida had signed a letter of intent to take over the hospital but backed out for reasons including the economic downturn, millions of dollars worth of potential renovations and equipment purchases.
Neither Chapman nor Brackin could confirm whether those renovations or expansions would occur should Baptist take over. Asked what has changed since 2010, Brackin said things have become more complex in health care.
“I think that there is a very strong desire by the Fishermen’s board to have a stable relationship” with Baptist, he said. “It has become close to impossible for a small, freestanding hospital to survive in the environment we’re in.”
Fishermen’s is community owned and runs as a nonprofit organization. It operated as such from 1957 until Health Management Associates leased it.
In July 2015, Baptist Health ranked among the highest-performing hospital systems in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Baptist Hospital in Miami was ranked the No. 1 hospital from Key West to Palm Beach County, the top hospital in the South Florida region and No. 6 statewide.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219