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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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A medical partnership for the region

Tampa General Hospital this week nailed down a couple of partnerships that will strengthen its prospects and brighten the region’s economic outlook.

It’s particularly encouraging that Tampa General Hospital reached a long-term agreement with the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.

The hospital Tuesday also announced a smart partnership with Florida Hospital’s Tampa Bay Network, which has six facilities in the area.

But the USF agreement, if more mundane, was significant, given how growing friction between USF and TGH in recent years had threatened their relationship and the local economy.

That friction resulted in TGH’s agreement to host more than 300 USF medical residents nearly expiring last year. Only at the last minute did the hospital and the school reach an agreement — and then only for a one-year extension, despite their long history of collaboration.

Former USF medical school dean Stephen Klasko’s enterprising efforts to extend USF’s reach — sometimes without regard for TGH’s plans — clearly had upset some hospital officials.

The tense situation dismayed local business leaders, who recognized the importance of the prestigious health care facilities to their ambitions for the area to become a hub for innovative health care services and biomedical businesses.

Tampa General is considered one of the best hospitals in the nation, and USF Health is a leader in the development of personalized medicine. So cooperation between these powerhouses is vital to the region reaching its potential.

Klasko has moved on to become president at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Harry Van Loveren is serving as interim dean of the college while the school looks for a permanent replacement. TGH also has a new leader in president and CEO Jim Burkhart, who replaced Ron Hytoff after his retirement.

Both Klasko and Hytoff are innovative leaders who tremendously improved their respective institutions. But the recent changes in leadership do seem to have helped TGH-USF relations.

USF and TGH now have agreed on a three-year contract that will automatically renew unless one of the parties objects. TGH board chairman David Straz and USF President Judy Genshaft merit credit for working together to ensure continued collaboration between these pillars of the local economy.

Tampa General also announced on Tuesday an agreement with Florida Hospital, which calls for both to contribute $1 million toward a partnership that will explore new health care services for Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.

This is no merger. The identity and operations of TGH and Florida Hospital will not be affected. But the arrangement should give both highly regarded enterprises more resources and flexibility to respond to health-care needs and capitalize on business opportunities.

It is a thoughtful deal that should strengthen the two operations while protecting their independence. It also should provide residents with more health-care options.

Both TGH developments represent good health-care news. It’s a particular relief that USF and TGH are a solid team again after last year’s tension and last-minute drama.

As Van Loveren told the Tribune’s Mary Shedden, “We will never again walk to the cliff.”

That is very good news indeed, because when they do, they take the local economy to the brink with them.

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