Merger seen as benefit for St. Mary’s Medical Center

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Bryan Johnson
Lydia Jumonville
Marc Harrison

Bryan Johnson believes the merger of SCL Health and Intermountain Healthcare will add up to more than the sum of the parts for operations at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction.

The combined organization will offer access to more technology as well as accelerate efforts to better care for people in and out of the hospital at lower costs, said Johnson, president of St. Mary’s. “These are the things that get me really excited for the potential.”

SCL Health and Intermountain Healthcare announced the signing of a letter of intent to merge, an agreement that should be finalized before the end of this year and close early next year.

Lydia Jumonville, president and chief executive officer of SCL Health, praised what she called the merger of two individually strong health care systems. “I’m excited about the wonderful things we’re going to do together.”

Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO of Intermountain, agreed. “This is a move designed to serve people.”

Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, SCL Health operates St. Mary’s Medical Center and a total of seven other hospitals in Colorado, Kansas and Montana. Based in Broomfield, SCL Health also operates 160 physician clinics and employs 16,000 people.

Based in Salt Lake City, Intermountain Healthcare operates a total of 25 hospitals and 225 clinics and employs 42,000 in Utah, Idaho and Nevada. The organization also provides health insurance to about 1 million people.

The merged organization will be named Intermountain Healthcare, but St. Mary’s and six other Catholic hospitals will retain their names. 

The organization will be headquartered in Salt Lake City with a regional office in Broomfield. Harrison will serve as president and CEO. Jumonville will remain in her role during a two-year integration and serve on a combined board of trustees with members selected by both systems.

Johnson said he doesn’t expect the merger to affect operations at St. Mary’s in the short term. But over the long run, he said there will be benefits from the combined systems and their leadership teams.

Prior to joining St. Mary’s in 2016, Johnson worked in a series of roles with  Intermountain Healthcare, including CEO of the Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Salt Lake City and Alta View Hospital in Sandy.

“Personally, I’m really excited about this merger,” Johnsons said.

St. Mary’s Medical Center already collaborates with Intermountain Healthcare, which provides remote services for intensive care, Johnson said. The services include monitoring patients and consultations with ICU physicians. The arrangement provides backup, particularly on nights and weekends, as well as offers more safe and effective care at a lower cost, he said.

Johnson expects the same approach could be used to deliver other types of care, including behavioral health services.

It’s an example of the kinds of technology St. Mary’s will access from the merged organization, he said.

In addition, Intermountain Healthcare has developed a reputation for improving population health, including preventive efforts that keep people out of the hospital and in the process lower the cost of care, he said.

St. Mary’s has pursued similar goals. But the merger will speed those efforts, he said. “It really will accelerate our movement.”

SCL Health brings to the merger expertise in managing regional markets across multiple states and succeeding in competitive markets, Johnson said.

As nonprofit systems, SCL Health and Intermountain Healthcare share a mission of providing excellent care while investing in the communities they serve, he said.

Moreover, there’s no overlapping of their geographic service areas.

Harrison said the merged organization could serve as a model for health care reforms nationally in increasing the accessibility, quality and affordability of care. The organization will remain committed to providing services in rural areas and implementing strategies that lower costs. “We represent the model merger. We’re tyring to do the right thing.”

Jumonville agreed. Rather than pursue a merger to turn around a financially troubled organization or find ways to cut costs, SCL Health and Intermountain Healthcare were motivated by other factors, she said. 

“This merger is really driven by mission.”

Johnson said the combined health care organization that results from the merger could add up to even more than the sum of the two systems, one that results in better medical outcomes at lower costs.