USC buys Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale

Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale.
(Tim Berger / Los Angeles Times)

The University of Southern California has purchased Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, one of numerous mergers occurring around the country as hospitals prepare for the national healthcare overhaul.

Keck Medicine of USC, which already had two hospitals, a medical school, a physician group and numerous clinics, wanted to expand its reach into the foothill communities and add an emergency room to its network. For its part, Verdugo Hills, a community hospital, wanted to become more competitive and gain access to the expertise and specialized services offered through USC.

USC will invest $30 million in the 158-bed Verdugo Hills Hospital, expanding its obstetrics department and renovating and upgrading the ER. USC is also considering adding a special center for cardiac patients and adding to the general surgery options.

USC Health Chief Executive Tom Jackiewicz said the purchase will ensure that patients get the best possible services close to home and that they have access to high-quality primary care at the community hospital as well as more specialized treatment at the academic medical center.

“We want to make sure we get closer to patients,” he said. “Being isolated here in East Los Angeles is not going to be enough. “


The goal, he said, isn’t to create a “Keck north” but rather to strengthen Verdugo Hills as a community hospital that provides services at low cost. “We don’t want to drive up healthcare costs,” he said.

Verdugo Hills Hospital Chief Executive Len LaBella said administrators began talking about a possible merger more than two years ago. They realized the hospital needed more resources to expand and to respond to the healthcare changes that include payment based on quality rather than quantity of services. They signed an agreement in March to create an affiliation.

“If we were going to compete in tomorrow’s healthcare world, we needed to up our game,” he said. “Upping our game required resources.”

Through the partnership, patients at Verdugo Hills will have access to more advanced healthcare services through USC, and some USC faculty will be at Verdugo Hills to help treat patients. The hospitals also will share an electronic medical system for records such as lab results, radiology and doctors’ notes.

Armand Dorian, a physician and co-director of the emergency department at Verdugo Hills Hospital, said partnering with an academic medical center provides access to more comprehensive treatment, research and clinical trials for patients and doctors. For example, stroke patients can get first-response care at Verdugo Hills but then can get follow-up specialized care with USC’s neurology department, he said.


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