Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna and University Hospitals have signed a letter of intent for Robinson to join the University Hospitals health system.

The move comes as the Ravenna hospital has been looking for opportunities to sustain itself in a rapidly changing health care environment.

"We believe that University Hospitals is the best option for Robinson to assure the presence of a full-service community hospital in Portage for many years to come," Robinson President and CEO Stephen Colecchi said.

He said joining the UH system will have "no direct impact to patients, which doctor they see if they go to Robinson. Actually, it should expand the opportunities," bringing access to UH's world-class specialty care.

Colecchi and UH CEO Thomas F. Zenty III made the announcement Wednesday morning to Robinson staff and physicians.

"Robinson has a long reputation of providing very high-quality care. We've known Robinson for quite some time and have always had an interest in creating a relationship with them. We feel we have as much to learn from them as they from us," Zenty said.

Colecchi said their goal is to enter into the final agreement by May 31, with an effective date subject to regulatory approval. Final terms of the agreement are still to be worked out.

UH is "one of the leading health systems in the country," Colecchi said. "It will help us enhance the programs and services we already offer, will help us achieve some economies of scale and operating efficiencies through back office functions."

The tentative agreement with UH comes after Robinson's 2007 affiliation agreement with Summa was allowed to expire at the end of 2013.

Robinson was also converting from county-owned to a not-for-profit status, which took effect Jan. 1, 2014. With that change, officials said they would seek proposals for "strategic alliance" from other health systems. As part of that conversion, Robinson Health Systems, Inc., the not-for-profit corporation that operates the hospital, pays $50,000 a year to lease the hospital and the land it sits on from Portage County. The county will continue to own the land and the hospital, Colecchi said.

Robinson hired a New York-based consulting firm, Cain Brothers & Company, LLC to help find a partner. "Our board of directors finally determined that a relationship with UH was in the best interest of our patients, the communities we serve and the medical staff," Colecchi said.

A lot of questions are still to be ironed out before a final partnership deal is signed, Colecchi said.

"We're not expecting to come in and make wholesale changes," Zenty said when asked about Robinson's executive staff and the 15-member board of Robinson Health Systems, Inc.

Colecchi and Zenty said the name Robinson also will continue with the facility in some form. When other community hospitals have joined, the UH system has rebranded them. Last month, Parma Community General Hospital was rebranded as UH Parma Medical Center.

Zenty noted that Robinson has been named one of the top places to work in Northeastern Ohio, and both UH and Robinson have magnet hospital designations.

"The cultural fit, I think, is very strong. The point is, the quality initiative is always going to be our number one priority," he said.

University Hospitals employs 25,000 and is the second-largest employer in Northeastern Ohio. After last month's addition of Parma Community General Hospital and EMH Healthcare in Elyria to its system, UH now has 14 hospitals, including its relationship with Southwest General and St. John Medical Center, and 26 outpatient health centers located throughout the region. UH had revenues of more than $3.3 billion last year.

Robinson is a 117-staffed-bed hospital and is the second-largest employer in Portage County. It has a medical staff of nearly 400 physicians representing more than 40 medical specialties.

Robinson Memorial Hospital traces its history to White Hospital, which opened in Ravenna in 1894. That facility became the Portage County Hospital in 1917 and was renamed Robinson Memorial Hospital in 1932 when it moved to a new facility on South Chestnut Street. The present facility on North Chestnut Street opened in 1977.

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