KDHC, SVMC partnership holds potential for lower drug prices, physician recruitment
Kaweah Delta and Sierra View partnership has potential to lower drug costs, attract physicians and create centralized clinics
By Nancy Vigran, Reporter for the Sun-Gazette
VISALIA – Last week, the independent boards of Kaweah Delta Health Care District (KDHCD) and Sierra View Medical Center each voted, unanimously, to enter into a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) among the two.
While each remains its own entity and under its own direction, the JPA could “help lower the cost of health care for both hospitals and help them better care for people in the region,” said Laura Florez-McCusker, senior public relations specialist with KDHCD.
“Our ultimate desire is to lower the cost of health care throughout Tulare County,” she said. “We have a great relationship with Sierra View relationship with Sierra View and while we might compete on some levels, we are more complementary than competitive.
Florez-McCusker says a JPA allows for several possibilities including a jointly opened clinic, jointly recruited physicians/staff, and the ability to centralize services.
“We’re going to start small by picking one or two services that lend themselves nicely to centralization and then, from there, we will be growing and evolving,” Florez-McCusker added.
Sierra View’s President and CEO Donna Hefner agrees.
“We will work on initiatives that both entities are working on independently today,” she said. “Through this combined effort, it will allow for us to explore ways to save both organizations on expenditures that would have normally been used independently.”
For certain, the initial push in 2019 is saving on costs.
“One of the first things we are looking at doing is pooling our pharmaceutical purchases to attract better pricing,” Flores-McCusker said. “As one of our biggest expenses, we would be looking to reduce that if possible.”
“The first initiative is on purchased supplies and goods through materials management and population health initiatives,” Hefner added.
There is a need for more physicians, nurses and other hospital support staff in Tulare County and throughout the Valley.
“In terms of physician recruitment, that is one area where we may be able to centralize some function,” Florez-McCusker said. “It’s something we both do today independently, but we will explore whether we can do physician recruitment jointly to lower costs.”
Another benefit of the JPA is that it allows for growth, so both hospitals can potentially reach out for other partners to join, Hefner said.
“A partnership with Kaweah Delta is something that Sierra View has been hoping to achieve for some time. It aligns with our mission, vision and values which focuses on partnerships and collaboration. This collaboration will allow us to continue to meet the health needs and strengthen the quality of life for our community,” she said.
KDHCD Executive Officer Gary Herbst says he is looking forward to the JPA’s potential.
“This is a very exciting time for us as we continue to seek ways to partner with others and plan for how we will care for our community in the future,” Herbst said
In health care, JPAs are becoming the norm, he added.
“Hospitals are no longer called to just care for people who are the sickest, they are asked to take care of the health of an entire population. To do that effectively, you have to have broad geographic coverage and that is where affiliations and partnerships are becoming norms of change. From the consumer, patient and community point of view, this is a good thing.”
The JPA is in a draft state and not yet finalized. It will not have an expiration date, and will only be ended if one, or both of the healthcare districts vote to do so.
“We are looking to continue to offer high quality safe patient care with more affordable access to care,” Hefner said. “The community will benefit from both entities collaborating on the services being provided in our respective communities”.