Fisher-Titus Medical Center and The Bellevue Hospital have a new business partner: The Cleveland Clinic's Sydell and Arnold Family Heart & Vascular Institute.
"We are not merging. We are affiliating and working together," Fisher-Titus President Pat Martin said.
The affiliation is the result of a one-year, comprehensive study and assessment level of cardiovascular and thoracic services available to the two hospitals' six-county service area. Martin said this partnership will strengthen the elements of those services and offer "more and more ... without going somewhere else."
Michael Winthrop, Bellevue's president and CEO, agreed during a press conference to make the announcement Tuesday at Fisher-Titus.
"It's the foundational purpose of this -- helping patients where they feel comfortable," he said. "It gives us access to protocol we don't have otherwise."
Bellevue and Fisher-Titus have had a business relationship for more than 20 years. Winthrop said being a partner with the Cleveland Clinic is another example of working together.
When Martin talked to Winthrop, both of the hospital administrators agreed they can bring more to the community by working together.
This is the 10th affiliation the Cleveland Clinic has. Other hospitals with a similar partnership are in Charlotte and Winston-Salem, N.C.; Washington; Philadelphia and Erie, Pa.
Dr. Joseph Cacchione, chairman of operations and strategy for the Cleveland Clinic's Heart & Vascular Institute, said Cleveland visited 40 other sites in 2012 and hopes to create 25 more affiliations in the next three to five years.
"We don't offer affiliations with every hospital," said Cacchione, an interventional cardiologist.
He stressed that the partnership with Bellevue and Fisher-Titus will be one which focuses on "connectivity."
"A majority of the care needs to remain local," Cacchione said. "We look forward to a long and happy relationship with these two hospitals. ... The relationship couldn't be getting off to a better start."
Cacchione, who said he wakes up every day with a desire to make the Cleveland Clinic better, said he wants Fisher-Titus to "go from being an 'A' student to being an 'A-plus' student."
Dr. Bruce Lytle is the chairman of the Cleveland Clinic's Heart & Vascular Institute and a staff cardiac surgeon. He said the partnership will create an infrastructure so local patients can get the majority of their care in Norwalk and Bellevue.
"The mission is to get everything they need close to home," Lytle said.
In fact, he said it's "in the best interest of patients" to receive all their care at Fisher-Titus or Bellevue.
Starting Sept. 1, the Cleveland Clinic will provide two full-time cardiologists, one full-time vascular surgeon and a part-time thoracic surgeon who will see patients in offices at the Snyder/White Heart & Vascular Center at Fisher-Titus.
"They will be a member of the community and care for members of the community," said Suzanne Inglis, Fisher-Titus assistant vice president of nursing.
Inglis said the new staff members will augment what's happening at Fisher-Titus and Bellevue.
Martin equated the new partnership with having access to "intellectual capital" since the "standard for cardiac care in the nation is the Cleveland Clinic."
"This is the culmination of bringing world-class service to our community," Martin said, but it's far from making Fisher-Titus a "complete hospital."
"We don't think there is such a thing as a complete hospital," Lytle quickly added.
While the Cleveland Clinic is great at providing "detailed care," he said this new partnership is intended to expand the care for "complete services."