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Summa continues partnership search

By Cheryl Powell
Beacon Journal medical writer

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In this file photo, Tom Knoll, President of the Summa Health System board of directors (left) and Thomas J. Strauss, Summa Health System President and Chief Executive (right) stand outside the Ann and David Brennan Critical Care Center at Summa Health System's Akron City Hospital. Summa Health System officials said the health system could pick a potential partner or opt to go it alone by as soon as the end of this year. (Ken Love/Akron Beacon Journal)

Summit County’s largest employer is continuing its search for a bigger partner.

Summa Health System announced this year that it was seeking a larger, “like-minded” nonprofit health system to become its minority owner.

When the search was publicly confirmed by Summa officials in July, they said the health system could pick a potential partner or opt to go it alone by as soon as the end of this year.

Summa spokesman Mike Bernstein recently said the process of reviewing the health system’s options is “proceeding as planned.”

“We hope to have additional information to share in the near future, but there’s nothing new to report at this time,” he said. “We’re prepared to take the amount of time necessary to ensure the best decision for the organization and the community.”

Although Summa is financially strong, with revenue exceeding expenses in recent years, the health system is trying to be “proactive rather than reactive” in a changing health-care environment, President and Chief Executive Thomas J. Strauss previously said.

“We can survive and we can thrive on our own,” he said. “But if we’re going to be transformational, maybe it’s the right time to explore a partnership.”

Summa officials have repeatedly declined to identify any of the suitors. They also will not say whether Summa is narrowing its focus to the region or state or broadening its options nationwide.

Summa is Summit County’s largest employer, with about 8,100 people in its fully owned entities: Akron City, St. Thomas, Barberton and Wadsworth-Rittman hospitals, SummaCare insurance, a physician group and other businesses. Summa’s total employment is more than 11,000 if partially owned and affiliated ventures are included.

Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or cpowell@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.