Mountain Health System, CAMC to work together

January 12, 2019

HUNTINGTON — Mountain Health Network, which includes Huntington’s two hospitals, has announced an affiliation agreement with Charleston Area Medical Center, which will see the two institutions work together to share information and train doctors.

Affiliation agreements are necessary before two companies do business together and are not the same as an acquisition or merger, said Gary White, Mountain Health Network interim chief executive officer.

These also come with confidentiality agreements, necessary for hospitals to share patient data, he said.

“You couldn’t have any conversations that would be productive about improving health care for the folks in your service area unless you have some sort of legal affiliation agreement in place,” White said. “This is highly sensitive information.”

In May 2018, Cabell Huntington Hospital completed its acquisition of St. Mary’s Medical Center, becoming the Mountain Health Network. The combined hospitals make the health system the second largest in West Virginia.

Discussions about Mountain Health Network’s possible arrangements with other health care systems, particularly CAMC, were discussed during a meeting with The Herald-Dispatch’s editorial board earlier this week. Attorney Thomas L. Craig, of Bailes, Craig and Yon and an outside counsel to Cabell Huntington Hospital, forwarded questions about possible future acquisitions to White. Craig represented Cabell Huntington in the acquisition of St. Mary’s Medical Center and is working with both hospitals on the integration of staff and services.

“We are bound by a confidentiality agreement, but I will tell you that we have confidentiality agreements in place with CAMC and with a number of other institutions to look at the possibility of affiliating our system with their system or institution,” White said Friday.

Dr. Kevin Yingling, chairman of the Mountain Health Board of Directors, said in a news release that Cabell Huntington and CAMC have a long history of educating physicians together.

“A cornerstone of the agreement focuses on training and retaining higher quality physicians and health care providers in all areas of medicine,” Yingling said in the release. “By working together, we can enrich medical care through education, research and clinical trials while benefiting the patients we serve.”

Lisa Chamberlin, Cabell Huntington vice president of strategic marketing, planning and business development, said hospitals have affiliation agreements when sharing data, such as ZIP codes showing areas where populations are prone to higher rates of cancer.

“Particularly in the health care world, we have a lot of protected data and proprietary information,” Chamberlin said. “Affiliation agreements must be in place to ensure even if the simplest discussions occur, so that there’s no antitrust and no concern about information being inappropriately shared.”

White touted the affiliation agreements as a sign that Huntington could become a leader in the health care industry and serves as an economic driver for the state and county.

“Huntington could easily be centered around the health care industry, and the basis of that is creating this system,” he said. “Now that we have it created, it’s very attractive to people outside the system. They want to know what we are doing and want to become part of it.”

An email about whether the affiliation agreements must be submitted to the West Virginia Health Care Authority was not returned Friday evening.

Charleston Area Medical Center is the flagship of the CAMC Health System. CAMC is a nonprofit, 956-bed center with more than 7,000 employees. Cabell Huntington has 303 beds and serves more than 29 counties in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio. St. Mary’s has 393 beds. Together, Cabell Huntington and St. Mary’s have more than 5,000 employees.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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