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A Quarter Century Strong
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center celebrates a significant milestone this month.

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Bayview President Richard Bennett says people who haven’t seen it in a while now marvel at “how spectacular the campus looks.”
Bayview President Richard Bennett says people who haven’t seen it in a while now marvel at “how spectacular the campus looks.”

Twenty-five years ago, a young Johns Hopkins Hospital administrator named Ron Peterson was asked by hospital president Robert Heyssel to oversee Hopkins’ acquisition of beleaguered Baltimore City Hospitals, a venerable but down-on-its-heels municipal facility that Peterson had been running on behalf of the city for two years.

The challenges were daunting—but the potential, as Peterson saw it, was enormous.

On July 1, 1984, Hopkins took over City Hospitals, mired in deficits and operating in decrepit buildings that hadn’t been upgraded in decades.

A quarter-century later, Peterson, now president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, calls acquiring what’s now called Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center a “win-win-win” transaction.

“It has been a win for the city of Baltimore—no more red ink; a win for Johns Hopkins—130 acres of land on which to expand every dimension of our tripartite mission; and a win for the community, with dramatically improved facilities and services provided by Hopkins faculty and highly competent, caring staff.”

“I could not be more pleased with the progress we have made. To have been part of it was a once-in-a-career opportunity,” Peterson says.     

Dating back to 1773, Baltimore City Hospitals was a storied institution with an inspiring history of medical firsts—including invention of landmark CPR techniques and creation of the country’s first intensive care unit.

It also had an association with Hopkins Hospital that even pre-dated the opening of the school of medicine in 1893. Many of its physicians held Hopkins faculty appointments, and Hopkins medical students had long done some training there.

By the early 1980s, it was deteriorating. Its physical plant had undergone few changes since the 1930s, and it was staggering under annual losses topping $7 million.

Heyssel, a savvy analyst of health care economics, believed Hopkins needed to expand to counteract potential competition. He did not want a for-profit firm to acquire City Hospitals and its significant attributes, which included a pioneering faculty practice group, the region’s only burn unit and important federal research institutes. He believed that if Hopkins could manage City Hospitals for a trial period and reduce its mammoth deficits, perhaps acquiring it would make sense.

Beginning in 1982 under a contract with the city, Peterson and Hopkins colleagues cut City Hospital’s losses by more than $7 million in one year. By 1984, following lengthy negotiations with the city, a joint committee of trustees from the university and Hopkins Hospital accepted Peterson’s recommendation that Hopkins acquire the facility, appointing Peterson its president.

Peterson and his management team launched more than two decades of extensive, financially successful expansion of buildings, staff and services. In 1999, he turned over the presidency to Gregory Schaffer, who retired last month after another banner decade at the medical center.

Over the past five years, Hopkins Bayview has reached “a tipping point, in that there is increasing recognition that Hopkins is a great medical school with more than one major campus,” says Hopkins Bayview’s new president, geriatrician Richard Bennett, who was a school of medicine graduate completing his residency at City Hospitals at the time of Hopkins’ acquisition.

“The location of Hopkins centers of excellence on the Bayview campus has accelerated,” he notes, citing the new myositis and wound centers there. With the ongoing recruitment of “stellar new leaders in our clinical departments,” Bennett says he and David Hellmann, vice dean for the Bayview campus, “are truly committed to continuing to grow Bayview into one of the world’s major academic medical centers.

“There’s no reason that we can’t continue to build on the strong foundation laid on this campus by so many great people over the years and make Bayview even more spectacular.”

–Neil A. Grauer

 

 

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