Even before the emergence of COVID-19, UAB Health System and Ascension St. Vincent’s were embracing the concept of “we’re all in this together” by forming an alliance between the two organizations.
Announced in January 2020, the alliance offers benefits that quickly became evident during the pandemic, as St. Vincent’s helped UAB with PPE shortages, and then UAB in turn assisted St. Vincent’s with vaccine acquisition.
“Right away, we demonstrated that both organizations can do much better working together than we can apart,” says Will Ferniany, Ph.D., CEO of UAB Heath System and of the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance.
This partnership is enabling the organizations to address a number of pressing needs within health care, including hospital capacity and staffing issues. For example, UAB Medicine CEO Reid Jones says some of the patients who are treated at University Hospital could receive similar care at one of St. Vincent’s facilities, freeing up space at UAB for more specialized cases.
“One of the primary objectives of the alliance is to spread both patient populations in such a way that they’re getting the right care in the right place,” Jones says.
The two organizations also have developed an aligned strategy to deal with the current nursing shortage that is being experienced nationwide.
“Staffing is the No. 1 problem we’re currently facing,” Ferniany says.
“We’ve been able to approach this together and learn from each other. They have some programs that are very effective that we’re adopting, and we have certain programs that they’ve adopted.”
In addition, there are plans to use the alliance to produce a cardiovascular service line that operates seamlessly across the various facilities.
“Together, we could have one of the largest cardiovascular programs in the country,” Ferniany says.
Plans also are underway to utilize St. Vincent’s patient population to create more clinical opportunities for UAB researchers. “They’re very interested in working with us on different research projects,” Ferniany says. “It just gives us more places to help with our trials and studies.”
Jones says much of the work during the first year of the alliance involved establishing an organizational structure between the two entities, a process he says has gone well.
“It’s been gratifying to see how the two leadership teams have supported one another,” Jones says. “We refer to this initiative as synergy. There are synergies that will develop that will make the two organizations better together than either could have been independently.”—Cary Estes