Windber, Indiana hospitals launch affiliation in bid to remain independent

·3 min read

May 20—A clinical affiliation linking two independent hospitals formalizes ongoing collaboration between the two, leaders said.

Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber and Indiana Regional Medical Center jointly announced the affiliation agreement Thursday, saying it will enable better coordination of patient care between the two organizations.

"The overall goal is to preserve and enhance (Windber) and (Indiana) as strong providers of high quality, cost-effective health-care services in each patient service area," a joint press release said.

Tom Kurtz, Windber's president and CEO, said the formal affiliation agreement was a natural progression of cooperation between the two health centers.

"We have always enjoyed a good relationship with them and COVID brought us closer together," Kurtz said.

The partnership will allow the hospitals to share specialty services that may not be feasible for either to offer independently. One example is Windber's popular orthopedic walk-in clinic, which provides services of Indiana's specialists, Kurtz said.

"We are going to strengthen that clinic," he said. "It has been one of our most successful programs. We are looking for those types of care."

The hospitals are working with area ambulance companies to develop transfer protocols between the facilities. Those receiving more advanced treatment at the Indiana hospital will be able to come back to Windber for therapy and rehabilitation.

"This gives us access to a lot of specialties without making a full-time commitment," Kurtz said.

The same is true for the Indiana hospital, President and CEO Stephen A. Wolf said. By expanding the pool of patients who benefit from the specialty care, the affiliated hospitals will be able to hire more specialists. He gave the example of the shared orthopedic program.

"We are recruiting another orthopedic surgeon right now," Wolfe said. "We wouldn't be able to do that without the collaboration."

Wolfe said the affiliation recognizes similarities between the two health care providers.

"We are continuing to look for new ways to partner and bring care to the people who need it — where they need it," he said. "Independent community hospitals are the backbones of many communities, and our missions match well while we work to fulfill these goals."

Both hospitals focus on serving their communities with patient-centered care and friendly staff, Kurtz said.

Both hospitals focus on serving their communities with patient-centered care and friendly staff, Kurtz said.

"This clinical affiliation is a natural fit for us, as both of our organizations firmly believe in the importance of remaining independent and relevant health care providers to our local communities," Kurtz said. "This relationship will help us both improve the overall healthcare experience as we provide seamless specialty care access for the patients we serve."

The 115-year-old Windber hospital and 107-year-old Indiana hospital are among 20 independent hospitals remaining in Pennsylvania. Kurtz noted both hospitals are "fiercely independent" and both leaders stressed the affiliation is not a step toward an acquisition or merger.

"Remaining independent has always been a key driver for us," Wolfe said. "This is another way for us to remain so. It gives our organizations the ability to share services and specialists, so that the people we serve don't have to drive to Pittsburgh to get the care they need."