Who is LHP?: Hospitals in partnership with company have positive words

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who is LHP Hospital Group?

It's the company that wants to purchase the majority of Central Peninsula Hospital and now has the recommendation of the hospital's governing board. But there is obviously more.

LHP is a Texas-based company established in 2008. Its leadership team is comprised of the same people who ran the now-defunct Triad Hospitals, also based in Texas.

Legacy Hospital Partner's chief executive officer, Dan Moen, postponed a scheduled Tuesday interview with the Clarion.

"We look forward to talking with the readers of the Peninsula Clarion and the citizens of the borough and sharing our story with them at the appropriate time," Moen said in a prepared release. "At this point we are respecting the course of action established by the (Kenai Peninsula Borough) Assembly and do not wish to get ahead of the information process."

Alaskans may remember Triad as the company that took over Valley Hospital in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and built the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center.

In 2007, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, the biggest publicly traded United States hospital chain, bought out the $6 billion Triad and its 54 hospitals.

LHP has a leadership staff of 11 people and wants to specialize in partnerships with community hospitals like CPH, according to its website.

LHP currently has partnerships with three hospitals: Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, Idaho; Wilson N. Jones Medical Center in Sherman, Texas; and Hackensack University Medical Center North at Pascack Valley in Westwod, N.J.

A few years ago, Portneuf Medical Center, then a county-run facility, was looking to form a partnership with an organization that could free up the hospital's decision-making as well as provide an influx of capital to build a new hospital.

Portneuf had just opened a new heart and vascular facility in 2005.

After its local hospital board went through a vetting period, much like the one just completed by CPGH Inc., the nonprofit that governs CPH, Portneuf's leadership chose, in 2009, to enter into a whole hospital joint venture agreement with LHP.

LHP now owns 77 percent of the hospital while a nonprofit Portneuf Health Care Foundation Inc. owns the rest.

Shaun Menchaca, the president of the Portneuf nonprofit, said the partnership with LHP has worked out well thus far.

"It's a very positive partnership." Menchaca said. "They realize that if they treat the partner good and the community good, good things will happen."

LHP is providing the capital necessary to build a brand new hospital.

Portneuf Medical Center's chief executive officer, Norman Stephens, the equivalent of Ryan Smith's role at CPH, said community members' and hospital staffers' opinions of the LHP partnership have improved over time.

"It's gotten better because there was initially some suspicion of whether they'd come in and do program cuts," Stephens said. "Now, a year and a half into it, people are really pleased because LHP hasn't done anything draconian."

Stephens was the CEO of Mat-Su Regional Medical Center when the facility was being built.

Wilson N. Jones has only been a partner with LHP since April. Like CPH and Portneuf, its hospital board went through a lengthy decision-making process. The hospital was looking for a partner that wanted to be part of a larger system so that if could have more negotiating power. But it also didn't want to lose local control, according to Gail Utter, the former chairwoman of Wilson N. Jones' hospital board.

"We were concerned with any partner of how they would interface with the community," Utter said. "Would they really honor community health care as a concept and how did they see their partnership with the community?"

Utter said LHP has, so far, lived up to its promise.

"There hasn't been a lot that's changed in the way that we deal with our patients day to day. They (LHP) haven't come in and said 'We've got to reduce staff, treat people differently and get patients in and out quicker.'"

Utter said what LHP has brought is the capital for planned projects like redoing the emergency room and remodeling the lobby and patient rooms.

"They have a strong commitment to making the hospital quality-oriented, patient friendly, aesthetically pleasing and a great place for the physicians to practice," Utter said.

Locally, some negative information about LHP and Triad has been circulating.

At the most recent Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, two people discussed an Aug. 28, 2008, 43-page document called "Legacy Hospital Partners and Triad Hospitals Vulnerability Assessment Overview."

The anonymous document, with a clear bias against Triad and LHP, alleges that Triad's leadership has a history of unethical business practices, including selling many of its hospitals. The document includes numerous select press clippings relating to Triad's history.

LHP responded to the document in an unsolicited e-mail statement to the Clarion.

"It is unfortunate that misinformed individuals have submitted an anonymous and unsubstantiated document in this manner and at this stage of the process," the statement reads. "Their intent is obvious: To discredit the legitimate process undertaken by the hospital to evaluate their strategic alternatives and to detract from the discussion of the true issues at hand."

One Triad hospital that closed was Douglas Community Medical Center in Roseburg, Ore. As reported by the newspaper, the Eugene Register-Guard, who supplied the archives of their coverage to the Clarion, the hospital's closure "devastated Roseburg."

When it closed in February of 2000, 300 employees were given just two weeks notice, the paper reported.

Douglas Medical closed because it couldn't compete with Roseburg's other hospital, Mercy Medical Center.

The Register-Guard reported, "Roseburg wasn't big enough to support two hospitals."

The same article, published Feb. 9, 2003, points to a separate Oregon hospital, McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, that benefited from a partnership with LHP.

In an interview with the Clarion this week, Maureen Weathers, who chaired McKenzie-Willamette's hospital board when it chose to partner with Triad, said Triad helped save the hospital.

Weathers explained the hospital was looking for a partner to help with its struggling financial situation. The board had heard of what Triad brought to McMinnville's hospital -- a partnership that the Register-Guard likened to a "fairy tale."

"We sat down to talk with them and they said, 'We don't want to buy you,'" Weathers said. "They said, 'We want to partner with you.'"

McKenzie-Willamette was in partnership with Triad until Community bought out Triad in 2007. Triad helped the hospital grow services and remain competitive in a two-hospital town, Weathers said.

"There was capital," she said simply.

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com.

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