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Bon Secours Mercy Health CEO talks Ireland merger: 'Blood is thicker than water'

Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health is focusing on an integration plan after completing its merger with Bon Secours Health System, Ireland's largest private healthcare provider, based in Dublin.

The systems completed the merger July 1, creating a combined nonprofit Catholic organization with 60,000 employees, nearly 50 hospitals, more than 50 home health agencies and senior health and housing facilities.

Now, it's time for hospital officials to share information, implement a 100-day plan for integration and prepare for the years to come, said Bon Secours Mercy Health President and CEO John Starcher.

Becker's recently caught up with Mr. Starcher to discuss those next steps as well as what prompted the merger and what it aims to accomplish.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What prompted the merger?

John Starcher: Bon Secours Health System [in Ireland] has been part of the Bon Secours portfolio for more than 200 years. While historically unrelated to Bon Secours in the U.S., there were healthcare entities held within the Bon Secours community [in Ireland]. So, when[ Marriottsville, Md.-based Bon Secours Health System and Cincinnati-based Mercy Health finalized their merger last September], [the systems] began to look at the efficiencies and synergies we could create by coming together.

The Sisters of Bon Secours, [a Catholic religious congregation], [has] patient care facilities all over the world, and they had this portfolio in Ireland which was quite sizable and one of which they're extraordinarily proud. 

Question: What prompted the merger?

John Starcher: Bon Secours Health System [in Ireland] has been part of the Bon Secours portfolio for more than 200 years. While historically unrelated to Bon Secours in the U.S., there were healthcare entities held From a distance, they watched the innovation activities between Bon Secours U.S. and Mercy Health in the U.S. and saw the positivity that we created, the synergies we were creating and began to ask questions. It really wasn't too long after [Bon Secours and Mercy Health] came together in the U.S. that they invited us over to [Ireland] engage in conversations, to look at their portfolio and to see if it might make sense for us to begin to work together. And, quite frankly, we didn't have in mind when we first started going over there, a merger or acquisition of any sort, but rather where can we be helpful to one another. But I'm very pleased the discussions rapidly evolved to the concept we ultimately closed on July 1, which was a full merger and integration, recognizing that the opportunities were significant for both of us.

Question: What is the primary goal of this combination?

JS: The primary reason we did it is the concept "blood is thicker than water." Even though there's a pond that separates us, these are cherished ministerial facilities [in Ireland] in the Bon Secours community. So, we were compelled to do it for mission reasons if nothing else. But the more we began to look at it, the more excited we got about the opportunities that it creates for both of us here in the U.S. and in Ireland.

Healthcare continues to evolve across the globe. Through our discussions, we quickly identified a mutual goal we share with Bon Secours Health System [Ireland]­­—our commitment to providing exceptional patient care.

We feel strongly we recruit and retain 'A' players, and it's always been my experience that 'A' players in leadership like to be challenged. They like additional development opportunity. [And] this creates additional growth and development opportunities for all of those engaged leaders that want to pick up some competency and experience overseas to learn a new system of health delivery and see what we can extract from that and vice versa for those leaders in Ireland. [Also], technology makes distance short these days, and there are significant synergies by coming together in an integrated delivery system model in the shared services. There are significant opportunities in supply chain, in information technology, even in human resources and finance — all of those systems that can and should be driven and supported or enabled by technology. And we're really only a couple weeks into the merger, and we're still learning. But given the fact that that's a nationalized health system [in Ireland], one of the things we're excited to learn more about is precisely how that works.

Q: What are the next steps with the merger?

JS: We're always an organization that is quite deliberate in what we do, and we try to eat the elephant one bite at a time. The immediate next steps for us are to focus on the 100-day plan for integration, to rapidly identify the high-level opportunities and to begin to execute against those, because quick wins are always important when you have a [merger or acquisition]. So, we're now focused on those quick wins — to begin to extract efficiencies, begin to have knowledge sharing across the pond and then begin the development plans for what the next three to five years holds. This is going to be an integrated delivery system, so we will evaluate capital investments as one system. We will evaluate all of our strategies as one system, and I think that's exciting, so that's what we're looking forward to.

 

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