Avita CEO stresses recruitment, touts services

By Alberta Stojkovic - For The Sentinel

MOUNT GILEAD — Avita CEO Jerry Morasko said he is confident that Avita Health System is prepared to address the needs of Morrow County Hospital. He spoke directly to the healthcare needs that the Morrow County Health Advisory Group (MC-HIC) has identified and prioritized.

Morasko told the group that in his 36 years working with rural and critical access hospitals, physician recruitment is the most important and strategic goal.

He stressed in the March 16 meeting that was attended by more than 40 on Zoom that it is necessary that the medical and specialist staff is prepared to be employed for inpatient services at the hospital.

Morasko said that specialists in cardiology, orthopedics and general surgery are in close proximity to Galion Hospital. He said those specialists could be shared with MCH.

While MCH has outpatient services in those areas, he said any major surgeries requiring inpatient care are presently sent elsewhere. He said patients want services close to home.

Avita offerings

Advisory group member Loren Altizer asked how Avita would respond to needs that the group identified for behavioral health, cardiology, stroke, trauma and inpatient care.

Morasko said Avita has several cardiologists and specialists who could share in covering inpatient needs at MCH for cardiology, orthopedic and general surgery. He said that behavioral health would not be a focus, although they do have two doctors who work with Suboxone clinics.

“We would focus on the meat and potatoes services,” said Morasko, listing cardiology, general surgery and orthopedic surgery as an initial primary focus.

Altizer asked about recruiting physicians. Morasko said they need to be paid a competitive wage and the culture of the health system is important where individuals are respected. He said that Avita went from 14 physicians and specialists a decade ago to 160 currently. They have a recruitment team.

Advisory group member LeAnne Gompf asked if Avita could submit a strategic business plan for MCH and a timeline for achieving their goals. Morasko said they had submitted a proposal a couple years ago, but he can submit an update.

Lois Stauffer asked what investments Avita would make here. Morasko said they presently have five general surgeons, which is close enough to cover MCH. They would likely add one more to their group. They would also add training for support staff that would be needed. Some investment would need to be made in the facility, but most investment would be in recruiting and training professional staff.

The present MCH physicians would be asked to join Avita if their present contracts allow that.

Financial status

Donna Carver asked about Avita’s financial status and how the $90 million debt Avita has through 2059 might affect MCH if they became part of Avita. Would they share in the obligation for that debt?

Morasko said that would be part of working out the contract. He said there is no need for concern since Avita has good debt service coverage. Its financial status with Moody’s was good.

Avita Health System has been in existence since 2011. Morasko was recruited by Galion Hospital in 2010 because it was struggling at the time. Avita was formed when Galion Hospital purchased Bucyrus Hospital that had filed for bankruptcy.

Morasko described how growth has continued for Avita with the purchase of the former Lazarus building in Ontario, pediatric center, dialysis center and Crestline Hospital that is used for administrative offices. Expansion has continued with Bellville Clinic and the purchase of another building in Ontario.

Morasko said their biggest dip in finances came after they purchased the Lazarus building and physicians were recruited and staff was trained. He said it has shown profitability for the past three years.

The advantage Morasko sees for Avita in obtaining Morrow County Hospital is increasing their volume of patients so that more physicians and specialists could be added to the Avita system. That means they can better develop their medical staff.

Morrow County Hospital would have full status in the Avita system. Morasko said that improvements and financial increases would not happen overnight for Morrow County Hospital because it will be necessary to recruit physicians and train support staff.

By Alberta Stojkovic

For The Sentinel