07 Nov Circleville voters clear path for Berger Hospital to work with OhioHealth
Voters in Circleville chose, by an overwhelming margin, to allow leaders of the local hospital system in Pickaway County to consider some sort of partnership or merger with a larger health-care system and move away from public ownership.
The city of Circleville and Pickaway County jointly own Berger Hospital, which opened in 1930, but that structure is rare in today’s health-care environment. The hospital board needed voter approval from city residents to pursue other ownership options that officials said would remove its operational and economic disadvantages. According to final, unofficial results from the Pickaway County Board of Elections, city voters approved by a vote of 2,132 to 473 the measure that allows the hospital to seek nonprofit ownership.
Berger CEO Tim Colburn said the next step will be to enter into formal discussions with Columbus-based OhioHealth, a system with which Berger already has a clinical relationship. He expects the process to take 12 to 24 months. He said he was hopeful of a win, but was nevertheless surprised by the margin. He credited a community-led effort to explain the hospital’s disadvantages under its current structure.
“We explained to the public the significance of this effort and this necessary change,” Colburn said. “The next steps involve diligence, negotiations and ultimately, an agreement as to what we want.”
If anything was likely to sink the issue, it would have been that current health-care system employees are part of a public — and generous — pension system that would not be automatically maintained under new ownership. Berger has the equivalent of 505 full-time employees.
Only city residents needed to vote to approve the change. Pickaway County commissioners have discretion for their ownership. All three commissioners supported the change and were active in the campaign.
Also Tuesday, voters in Pickaway County approved a new tax levy with 56 percent of the vote to support the Pickaway County Park District. The levy will raise about $700,000 annually to support new parks and trails in all parts of the county and improve existing ones.