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2005 Press Releases
Citing Seamless Care and Increased Efficiencies, Community Leaders Sign Off on Morton Plant Mease Full Merger

CLEARWATER AND SAFETY HARBOR, Fla., (June 1, 2005)--Morton Plant Hospital and Mease Hospitals, already partners in a joint venture for ten years, announced the completion of a full merger today. Leaders of the two not-for-profit hospital systems say the regulatory review confirms their long-held belief that Morton Plant Mease can better serve the community with increased efficiencies and seamless care as a fully merged organization.

The latest filing to the government for antitrust clearance occurred in mid-April. Shortly before the 30-day initial review was set to expire, the government notified the hospitals of an early termination, essentially clearing the way for a merger. The hospital community boards approved the new bylaws over a series of meetings last week to give the green light for today's long-awaited announcement.

"It's been a long time coming," said Morton Plant Mease President and CEO Phil Beauchamp, "so we're feeling very satisfied right now. But the real winner here is the community. This will mean more efficient, seamless care for patients."

Beauchamp has a unique historical perspective on the merger process. He was the president of Mease when the merger was first attempted in 1994 and the government proposed an experimental configuration in which the hospitals could collaborate in some areas while competing in others.

"We've achieved much in the past ten years," said Beauchamp, "but those accomplishments are just the beginning of what we can do to improve for our community and we're eager to get going."

Beauchamp cited past cost savings of $100 million and promised future efficiencies in the utilization of staff and equipment to meet patient needs throughout the community. He also cited the impressive success of Morton Plant Mease in nursing, one area in which the system was allowed to collaborate more fully. The system achieved the coveted nursing Magnet status, the gold standard for a quality nursing organization. The nursing vacancy rate at Morton Plant Mease is among the best in the country and turnover is considerably lower than national averages. More important, 39.6% of Morton Plant Mease nurses are certified in their specialty, as compared to 20.2% in other nursing magnet hospitals.

Mease President Jim Pfeiffer said the changes resulting from full merger may be more or less invisible to patients, but a welcome invitation to creativity and the joint pursuit of excellence for team members.

"It shouldn't look too different for patients. After all, we're finally giving them the kind of seamless care they expect. On the other hand, the changes will be very liberating for team members, allowing us to eliminate the artificial barriers of the consent decree that restricted past efficiencies." "The ability to share 'best practices' and learn from each other directly impacts patient care in a positive way," said Pfeiffer.

Board chairs Bruce Fyfe and Gerald Figurski were pleased with the potential to realize further efficiencies in the future.

"These are high performing, low-cost hospitals now," said Morton Plant Mease Board Chairman Bruce Fyfe, "but in these times of spiraling costs, hospitals are always looking for ways to maximize savings. Our role as community boards is to assure the widest possible access for hospital care and controlling cost is obviously a key."

Mease Board Chair Gerald A. Figurski concurred. "Joint planning will also give patients seamless care, and that's especially important in complex specialties like cardiology and neurology, where higher volume equals better outcomes."

Those barriers included an inability to coordinate any strategic planning, including the purchase of major equipment or offering of new services, even the originally approved outpatient care. The system was also restricted from working together on community outreach and marketing. Hospital senior management is enthused about freeing administrators to share the information necessary for quality improvement, cost efficiencies and effective management of multi-site organizations.

The early integration efforts will most likely focus on services that were restricted midway through the joint venture's ten-year history. The system had realized significant success in health improvement pilot programs for businesses, offering wellness classes, screenings and health assessments to improve the health of employees. Senior management says such joint efforts will be high on the priority list for the fully merged organization.

Both CEOs were effusive in their thanks to Board members for their support during the merger process. "For more than a decade, our board members have dedicated countless volunteer hours to making sure health care in this area is the best it can be," said Beauchamp. "It is with deepest respect and gratitude that we thank them for their tireless efforts today."

Contact: Amy Lovett, Phone/727-462-7094, Pager/727-413-4631