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Major Hospital Merger Just a Few Votes Away

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Duke Hospital, South Wing
DURHAM — It's called the "City of Medicine." Very soon, Durham will be living upto that title. Two big hospitals are making plans for a partnership.

Talks have been underway for years between two non-profit corporationsthat run Duke Medical Center and Durham Regional Hospital. Wednesday'saction by the board at Durham Regional was just a small step on the way toits partnership with Duke.

The partnership will result in Duke Medical Center basically runningDurham Regional. Duke would sublease Durham Regional for 34 years. Allauxiliary operations including the Lincoln Community Health Center and thecounty ambulance service would be included.

There are still a lot of details to work out. And taxpayers are wary.Partnership opponent Victoria Peterson told Durham Regional's board shedoesn't want the hospital to be given to anyone but the people.

Durham Regional's board is ready to move forward. The partnership is theresult of changes in the managed healthcare system. Richard Myers of theDurham County Hospital Corporation says it's absolutely necessary to cutcosts in order to survive.

A decision by Duke's board is expected next week. Then the partnershipproposal goes to the public and the Durham County commissioners. Dr.Ralph Snyderman of Duke University expects healthy discussion on thepart of the community.

Under managed care, insurance companies very often force hospitals to workmore efficiently to save money for both their subscribers and for thecompany. That's why there are more alliances among hospitals thanbuyouts.

Here are some highlights of the proposed partnership between Durham Regionaland Duke Medical:

  • Duke will assume control over Durham Regional's day-to-day operations andassets.
  • Durham Regional employees will become Duke employees.
  • Durham Regional employees will keep their current jobs and salaries.
  • No immediate lay-offs or staff reductions are called for.
  • Duke promises a continued commitment to Lincoln Community HealthCenter, which provides medical care to the city's poor and uninsured.
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