PHILADELPHIA--During his tenure at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Lawrence Shulman, MD, has been involved in two hospital mergers. The first, with Massachusetts General Hospital, was done in secrecy, while the latest, with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has been an open process.
Each approach has its plusses and minuses, he said at the second annual meeting of the Association of Cancer Executives (ACE).
The first merger led to questions and controversy. "When the Mass General merger was first disclosed in the Boston Globe, it was viewed as a way to consolidate services and save money," said Dr. Shulman, clinical director of hematology-oncology at Brigham and Women's Hospital. But later articles criticized the two hospitals for not consolidating and called the merger a "fraud" for its failure to combine the two facilities.
The reporters missed the point of the merger, Dr. Shulman said, which was not to downsize but rather to create a force powerful enough to negotiate with managed care providers.
"We felt that by bringing the two rivals together, we would have a powerful negotiating force," he said.
Working out a merger in the closet has advantages, he said. "With a closet type merger, the physicians and other employees don't have a period of anxiety beforehand, but they're pretty shocked in the morning."
In fact, Dr. Shulman said he only learned of the merger himself when the news broke while he was attending a conference in California.