Creates healthcare network of 250 providers
By Meagan McGone
BREVARD -- Two of the largest healthcare providers in the area will now become one, creating a giant medical network of 250 doctors within Brevard County.
Health First, which operates four not-for-profit hospitals - Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach, Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Palm Bay Hospital in Palm Bay and Viera Hospital in Viera - purchased Melbourne Internal Medical Associates, a network of 141 physicians that sees patients in 16 different locations throughout the Space Coast.
The new entity will be called the Health First Medical Group.
"Health First is pleased to make this acquisition announcement," said Steve Johnson, president and CEO of Health First, in a news release posted on the company's website on Nov. 15. "As Health First moves to enhance its Integrated Value Based Delivery Network in order to increase patient quality, safety, and the patient experience, this acquisition enables Health First to strategically align physicians who share the same vision and philosophies. By joining our physician groups, Health First will be able to reduce costs to those we serve."
The acquisition, pending approval from legal and governmental agencies, will begin operation in mid-February 2013, according to the news release.
Though the integration of the two healthcare groups has already begun, it will take between 18 to 24 months for it to be complete. This will happen under the guidance of a consulting firm that has expertise in specialized acquisitions, the news release stated.
Dr. James Ronaldson, CEO of MIMA, said the acquisition allows both healthcare providers to better serve the patients in the community.
"By combining our resources under one organization, patients will have access to a stronger, more unified network of primary care physicians, specialists, sub-specialists, and ancillary services that can address all levels of medical care for the patients we serve," he said in the news release.
But Brenda Wellman, a Melbourne resident, said she has questions about the purchase, which she hopes the new entity will answer soon.
"Will costs go up? Will I be getting the best insurance coverage? What about our excellent doctors outside of MIMA and Health First - how will they stand a chance?" she said.
A similar transaction occurred in November 2011, when Wuesthoff Health System, which operates a variety of health-related services in addition to its two hospitals - Wuesthoff Medical Center in Rockledge and Wuesthoff Medical Center in Melbourne - bought Osler Medical, a 47-physician network.
A Health First employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the transaction could be beneficial to patients in Brevard.
"For one, I would think it will be easier to exchange case information, to be on the same page," he said. "Of course, I don't know exactly what changes this will bring. But I certainly would not jump to conclusions about rising costs or insurance headaches."