Last updated: July 17. 2013 1:37PM - 454 Views

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Ralph B. Davis

Civitas News Service

PRESTONSBURG — Despite a history of rivalry, two local hospitals are joining forces to provide cardiology services in Floyd County.

Highlands Regional Medical Center and Pikeville Medical Center announced Monday their partnership on the new “Pikeville Cardiology Clinic at Prestonsburg,” to be housed on the fourth floor of Highlands’ medical office building.

During a joint press conference in the hospital’s atrium, Highlands CEO Bud Warman and Pikeville CEO Walter May said that as the medical industry continues to evolve, it is important for community hospitals to embrace cooperation and collaboration, rather than competition.

Warman said the collaborative effort was more about fulfilling current services, rather than adding new services. While Eastern Kentucky has some difficulty attracting specialists, Warman said this agreement would solve that problem in the realm of cardiology, and could lead to similar arrangements in the future.

“No additional services to speak of right now, just strengthening some of the services we currently offer, but we’ve been without physician coverage,” Warman said. “So this is adding Dr. Handshoe to the mix in our community. And then, hopefully if things go well, we will be building on that in the future, perhaps with some other physicians.”

Warman said Pikeville will staff the medical office of the new clinic, while Highlands would continue to operate diagnostic services. He further explained that the agreement between the two hospitals does not include any cost- or revenue-sharing provisions, but that Pikeville’s medical office would be a tenant of the office building.

Warman said collaboration has become more necessary, in the face of sweeping change in the field of health care.

“I think both organizations recognize the importance of collaboration given today’s health care climate, a climate defined by sweeping social changes, changing payment systems, a shortage of providers, and great technological advances, particularly in the field of information management,” Warman said. “Given these circumstances, we recognize all providers need to work together to solve the health care-related problems experienced in our local communities. Despite the challenges and changes in the health care arena, care is still delivered by people, for people, and this is best done in a collaborative environment.”

May agreed and said the hospitals must work together, rather than in competition with each other.

“I believe this collaboration between facilities that Bud was talking about is the future of medicine,” May said. “We can no longer afford to be islands and stand alone, without having areas that we do cooperate with each other, where it is beneficial to both facilities to do so. This is an important day. I know there’s been times when we’ve been competitors, but I hope we have been good competitors. And as we join together here today, I hope we can be good partners …

“The whole things boils down to what’s good for patients. If this works for the patients and they’re better served, it’s going to be good for Highlands, it’s going to be good for Pikeville. If it doesn’t, it won’t be. But I believe with good people of goodwill working toward that end, that’s almost guaranteed to happen, that it will be good for patients.”

Warman said the agreement between the hospitals is typical of the evolution each has shown over the years, which has allowed the two to remain strong when others have failed.

“Many experts predict the demise of the independent, hometown hospital is just right around the corner,” Warman said. “But as we know the people of Eastern Kentucky are pretty resilient and pretty independent-minded. We don’t always comport with the trends. And it’s because of this independent streak and the independent spirit of Eastern Kentucky, we are fortunate enough to have two of the last remaining strong, independent, community hospitals in the commonwealth — Pikeville Medical Center and Highlands Regional Medical Center.”

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