UC Irvine Health and MemorialCare Health System announced a partnership Wednesday that officials said would offer a full network of health- care services in Orange County.
Two weeks ago, the University of California Board of Regents approved the partnership that will lead to the opening of "state-of-the-art primary care health centers," officials said.
It's not clear how many new health centers will be opened, but initially officials overseeing the partnership envisioned 30 over the next several years, said Barry Arbuckle, president and chief executive of MemorialCare Health System.
"Given the response we're getting over the past 24 hours, I wouldn't be surprised to get to that number even over these next 12 months," Arbuckle told City News Service.
In August of last year, St. Joseph Health and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian announced a similar partnership to expand health services to under- served communities. The affiliation drew criticism from abortion-rights supporters when Hoag stopped offering elective abortions at the hospital.
Officials with the UCI and MemorialCare partnership said their partnership is less of a merger than the Hoag and St. Joseph team-up, and stressed that UCI and MemorialCare will remain independent health-care providers.
"I suspect they're working on many of the same things," with the Hoag- St. Joseph's collaboration, Arbuckle said. "But this is truly an affiliation. We're not merging assets here, and they're not going to use our balance sheet to extend debt or anything like that."
UCI is a teaching hospital which also engages in clinical research, while MemorialCare is described as an "integrated delivery system," with six hospitals and more than 200 care centers in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
UCI and MemorialCare officials said the partnership is unique because it is the only one of its kind in Orange and southern Los Angeles counties that provides "the entire continuum of care," from teaching and research hospitals and a children's hospital to ambulatory surgery centers and urgent-care facilities.
UCI has more of a focus on "specialists," while MemorialCare provides primary care centers, allowing both partners to cover the broad range of care, Arbuckle said.
"Together, we will fulfill our joint mission of providing exceptional, personalized care that is driven by research with the latest and most advanced technologies and techniques available that promote better health and healing," said Terry Belmont, chief executive of UC Irvine Medical Center. "This is driven by a shared passion for innovation, grounded in the most advanced medical and scientific knowledge."
The partnership will help both more fully combine their advanced electronic medical records to better coordinate care of patients and access to their medical backgrounds, officials said.
The timing of the partnership will help both providers adapt to the flood of newly insured as the Affordable Care Act offers coverage, Arbuckle said. The new law -- known as Obamacare -- will increase demand for primary care physicians, Arbuckle said.
– City News Service.