All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg is on a roll. Six months after opening a new state-of-the-art facility, it announced plans this week to affiliate with Johns Hopkins Medical Systems, one of the pre-eminent names in American health research and care. The deal broadens All Children's research efforts and provides some financial stability amid the uncertain economics of health care reform. An even larger benefit for Tampa Bay will be if the affiliation produces positive ripple effects for the delivery of health care in the region.
All Children's will be the first non-Maryland outpost for Johns Hopkins, a nonprofit, Baltimore-based empire that grew out of the 1873 bequest of its namesake. Hopkins was a Quaker merchant and investor who never married. At his death, the fortune flowed to the hospital and university he had already begun for his local community. In that sense, Johns Hopkins and All Children's share a similar history. Civic leaders opened All Children's in 1927 in response to the polio epidemic.
Such mutual civic-mindedness should go a long way toward making sure this union works to Tampa Bay's benefit. No money is changing hands. The majority of seats on All Children's board will be controlled locally and the pediatric hospital will keep any donations it raises from the community. Johns Hopkins, a $5 billion enterprise, will assume ultimate financial responsibility for All Children's, which receives 70 percent of its revenue from Medicaid and has seen its operating income plummet by about half with the additional expense of running a bigger hospital.
In return, Johns Hopkins obtains a valuable new perch from which to launch additional research and medical training. By 2013, Johns Hopkins hopes to have its medical graduates in residency and fellowship programs based at All Children's. Ultimately it hopes to build a research facility in St. Petersburg that will become a magnet for federal and other research funds.
Still unclear is what that affiliation could mean for the University of South Florida College of Medicine, which has an agreement with All Children's through 2013 for residency and fellowship programs. Gary Carnes, All Children's president and CEO, said he hopes the three institutions will be able to collaborate, but exactly what form such an agreement would take has not been discussed. Ideally, the region's public medical school would remain engaged with the freestanding pediatric hospital and its influential new research partner.
All Children's and Johns Hopkins were in talks for three years before this week's announcement — a time line that suggests both parties came to this decision soberly. It will be exciting to watch what they accomplish together.