TAMPA — Two major area hospital groups announced Tuesday they are teaming up on future projects. Tampa General Hospital and Florida Hospital's six area facilities will each invest $1 million to launch the collaboration on new clinical programs and services in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and western Polk Counties. “This important step will help Tampa General Hospital and Florida Hospital Tampa change the way they provide healthcare,” said David Straz, chairman of the Tampa General board of directors, which approved the deal in a meeting Tuesday morning. The announcement is not an operational merger or a sale, a trend among local hospitals the past few years. Tampa General and Florida Hospital's six area facilities will continue to operate independently.
But the two entities will use combined strength to compete for the attention of residents needing primary, outpatient and acute care, said Mike Schultz, president and Chief Executive Officer of Florida Hospital's Tampa Bay network. Operating otherwise is financially unsustainable, he said. “The day is over when every body is trying to duplicate services,” said Schultz, who oversee facilities in Tarpon Springs, Wesley Chapel, Land O'Lakes, Carrollwood and Tampa, where Florida Hospital Tampa and Pepin Heart Institute are based. The potential projects mentioned Tuesday reflect the dramatic national shift in health care industry economics. Ventures, such as rehabilitation centers, home health care services and expanded primary care physician networks all focus on services and treatments done outside the four walls of a hospital. Hospitals are no longer being reimbursed for the number of treatments or services they provide. Now, insurance companies and government program reimbursements are paid in bulk, and based on a patient's overall health. Future endeavors must reflect that, said Jim Burkhart, Tampa General president and chief executive officer. How much each hospital invests in future endeavors will depend on geography and specialties, Burkhart said. For example, a one-stop primary care facility in downtown Tampa may involve a bigger stake by Tampa General; while Florida Hospital may take the lead in long-term acute care – a specialty in which it already operates a hospital.