The Merger Decade: What We Have Learned From Canadian Health Care Mergers in the 1990s?

by Ottawa Hospital and the Association of Canadian Teaching Hospitals | Mar 01, 2000

Mergers became a way of life in the nineties. In an effort to achieve financial savings and greater efficiencies, institutions in the private and public sectors alike have merged their resources, re-engineered their operations and created new cultures.

Health care is no exception to this modern phenomenon. In Canada, over the last decade more than 30 major teaching hospitals have merged into very large organizations. These mergers have been made under different models and conditions. The idea behind mergers is to provide better patient care and save money. They’re also a way of responding to cutbacks the provinces felt were necessary to balance their budgets in a period of ever-increasing deficits.We are living the consequences of that political positioning — a kind of “merger madness” across Canada.

Last summer I discussed with a number of my colleagues the value of getting together for a meeting on whether hospital mergers are successful or not. As a consequence, an invitation was sent to approximately thirty members of the Association of Canadian Teaching Hospitals (ACTH), who’ve been involved in mergers. The response was really quite exceptional. Twenty-four CEOs agreed to speak at the conference — a significant proportion of the people involved in running our large Canadian hospitals.

The conference addressed the following major questions: Have we saved money? Are we providing better patient care? What works and what doesn’t work? How do we make a merger successful?

This report presents the results of the conference — the themes that emerged, the comments, concerns and reflections of CEOs running some of the biggest merged organizations in Canada. Not every problem was solved, but conference participants were extremely positive about the event: the general consensus was that the conference succeeded in providing important insight into the impact of mergers on our hospitals and healthcare system in Canada.

David Levine
President and Chief Executive Officer
Ottawa Hospital