University Community Health in Tampa and the Adventist Health System, already partnering to build a new hospital in Pasco County, are hoping to expand their relationship.
Under discussion is a formal affiliation of Adventist with the entire UCH system, which includes University Community Hospital, Pepin Heart Institute and UCH-Carrollwood, all in Tampa, a long-term acute care hospital in Connerton, as well as Helen Ellis hospital in Tarpon Springs.
Phoebe Ochman, spokeswoman for UCH, said, "We've had a lot of internal meetings about strengthening the relationship. There definitely would be advantages in terms of purchasing and managed care contracts. But there are no concrete details at this time."
A spokesman for Adventist, headquartered in Winter Park, did not return a call for comment.
Ochman said it is too early to speculate on how, if at all, any alignment with Adventist would affect UCH's relationship with the University of South Florida. UCH has 10 residency slots for medical school graduates and also acts as a clinical site for USF's medical and nursing students. UCH physicians also teach at USF medical school, which is across the street. Adventist has similar relationships with medical schools at its hospitals.
Dr. James Orlowski, UCH's director of pediatrics, said the hospital's leadership is being told that the new arrangement would not involve a sale of assets because Hillsborough County owns UCH's site on East Fletcher Avenue. Instead, Adventist would be given seats on UCH's board in return for access to the buying and borrowing power of the larger Adventist system.
Adventist, a nonprofit network sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has 37 hospitals in 12 states. Its 17 hospitals in Florida include the giant Florida Hospital in Orlando, with more than 1,000 beds, as well as its 154-bed facility in Zephyrhills.
Adventist hospitals reported $5.5 billion in revenues in 2008, with net income of $233.5 million. The system held total assets of $8.4 billion.
University Community Health reported revenue of $437.5 million and net income of $7.9 million in 2008 for its facilities on Fletcher Avenue and in Carrollwood. Net assets were $124 million.
For two years, UCH and Adventist have been involved in a joint venture for an 80-bed hospital in Wesley Chapel. UCH's Ochman said ground-breaking is planned for late spring or early summer, with construction expected to take 18 to 24 months.
Peter Young, a veteran hospital consultant from Fort Myers, said it's not surprising UCH should be looking to partner with a stronger player.
"Larger health care systems have a large business platform capable of absorbing smaller facilities' business needs," Young said. "You're going to see much more of that as individual hospitals have to align with larger business partners."
Times staff writer Amy Scherzer and researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.