Merger of Verdugo Hills Hospital, USC behind schedule

The merger of Verdugo Hills Hospital into USC’s Keck Medical Center is behind schedule.

In June 2012 leaders of the independent Glendale hospital voted to partner with USC, and a hospital spokeswoman said at the time that Verdugo Hills hoped to complete the merger by the end of the year.

Now that 2012 is in the rearview mirror, Verdugo Hills spokeswoman Celine Petrossian and USC Medical Sciences spokeswoman Leslie Ridgeway said both parties are still working on “due diligence” reviews of the transaction, with no strict timeline for completion.

Obstetrician Steven Hartford, a member of the Verdugo Hills board, said he anticipated the deal might be done by February.

Verdugo Hills is a 158-bed facility serving people from Tujunga to La Cañada that employs more than 750 people.

When hospital officials announced last year that they were considering a merger, they cited changes in healthcare economics, including President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, as a driver. Medicare reimbursements are not expected to grow in the coming years, putting the squeeze on smaller facilities.

Glendale Adventist Medical Center made a push to partner with Verdugo, but lost out to USC.

Hartford said that after the merger is completed the California Office of the Attorney General will review the deal for antitrust purposes, a process that he said normally takes about three months.

When the merger goes into effect, Hartford doesn’t expect drastic changes.

“I think [USC] wants to slowly get integrated into the community,” he said. “I think their intent is to preserve the community spirit.”

Hartford said that patients shouldn’t worry that the merger might mean the loss of local services. Instead, he said, USC can offer additional services for Verdugo Hills patients, such as cardiac angiography.

“The intent is to preserve all the services we currently have, and that’s part of the definitive agreement,” he said. “[USC] does a number of things that we don’t do, and those could potentially be done at the USC campus.”

The future of Verdugo Hills’ contracted doctors — the hospital employs emergency room doctors, anesthesiologists and pathologists — has been a “big concern” for some medical professionals in the area, Hartford said. But, he said, USC plans no “immediate moving out” of the contracted positions.

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