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Saratoga Hospital And Albany Medical Center Seek New Partnership

The Albany-based research hospital and Saratoga Springs community hospital this week announced a letter of intent to affiliate. While the specifics of such an affiliation have yet to be ironed out, Albany Medical Center President and CEO James Barba said the partnership comes as healthcare is shifting to a population-based system.

For example, that can mean learning how to navigate a healthcare system based on prevention instead of just treatment.

"The only way for hospitals to do that, frankly, in my opinion, is to come together in some kind of a system that has both scale and significant integration so that we can work together and identify the populations we wish to care for and then go ahead and care for them," said Barba.

While Albany Medical Center specializes in training physicians and research, Saratoga Hospital has strong roots in areas like primary care.

Barba says while the two institutions may be different, they have plenty to offer each other.

"There's so much that an academic medical center hospital can learn from excellent community hospitals. We certainly have excellent community hospitals in this region. And then there are a few things, obviously, that a bigger center like Albany Med has to offer the community hospitals."

That sentiment is shared by Saratoga Hospital Board Chair Janice White.

"So it's not like we need to be the same, it's actually a good thing that we're not the same," said White.

Since 2013, Saratoga Hospital and Albany Med have worked together in operating an urgent care facility in the Saratoga County Town of Malta.

While the terms of the agreement are not yet completed, and there's still a regulatory process to go through, White foresees some cross-over in the governance of the two independent organizations.

"We see some representative, shared governance. So we do see our board having representatives of Albany Med and Albany Med's board having Saratoga Hospital trustees," said White.

This is not the only affiliation with a community hospital sought by Albany Medical Center. Albany Med is awaiting a final letter of authorization from the New York State Department of Health for its affiliation with Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, New York.

Barba said Columbia will send representatives to the Albany Med board and that Albany Med will become the "active parent" for Columbia Memorial.

"And we're then going to begin to rationalize and hopefully make very effective the delivery of healthcare services in the Columbia and Greene County areas. I'd like to think, though only time will tell, that we'll be able to reach the same kind of agreement and do the same kinds of things in Saratoga and Saratoga County, and its environs."

Leaders of Saratoga Hospital and Albany Medical Center expect to finalize an agreement in 2016.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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