Local business and medical professionals are hopeful that the planned merger of Verdugo Hills Hospital into USC's Keck Medical Services will bring an infusion of resources to the facility on Verdugo Boulevard.
Wes Seastrom, chairman of the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce, said the deal could prove to be a boon to the area.
“I would think [USC] can bring additional resources and capital investment to provide more services and maybe better equipment and so on, but that they would keep the emergency room,” Seastrom said. “Foothill communities rely on that … We'll just have to see when more details come out.”
Verdugo Hills officials announced the merger plans earlier this week, saying they hope to complete the deal by the end of the year. They have not released details of how the merger might affect existing services or the hospital staff of 750.
Leaders at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, which lost out in an effort to merge with Verdugo Hills Hospital, expressed disappointment last week that their efforts failed. In a statement, Glendale Adventist Chief Executive Kevin Roberts said several doctors work at both facilities, which are just a couple of miles from each other.
Dr. Donald Barber, a general internist at Verdugo Internal Medicine, a medical group across the street from Verdugo Hills, said he thinks the merger with USC ensures a better future for the hospital.
“Community hospitals are an endangered species — free-standing community hospitals, there's hardly any of them left,” said Barber, who has been a member of the hospital's medical staff for 30 years. “I think it's going to put us on a much firmer financial ground to hopefully continue to provide excellent care to the community.”
Barber said that the hospital's strengths include primary care, orthopedics and obstetrics, and that the financial wherewithal provided by a larger entity such as USC would enable the hospital to stay at the forefront of those disciplines.
“I think the merger is going to allow us to upgrade some of the facilities here [and] stay abreast of technology advancements that are coming and requiring capital investment,” he said.
The California Nurses Assn. represents nurses at USC's medical centers, but does not represent the nursing staff at Verdugo Hills.
Liz Jacobs, spokeswoman for the California Nurses Assn., said the group is prepared to welcome the nurses at Verdugo Hills, but cautioned that hospital mergers sometimes result in a reduced level of care.
“Sometimes with mergers there will be a downsizing of services in a smaller facility, and we would just hope that the essential services will be protected,” Jacobs said. “[Hospitals] service different communities, so you want to make sure those communities still have access.”
Verdugo Hills spokeswoman Celine Petrossian did not return requests for comment on the potential staffing impact or details of the transaction.