What a difference a year makes. February 1 marked the one-year anniversary
of a strategic alliance between Torrance Memorial and Cedars-Sinai. The
two organizations joined forces with very big goals to create new opportunities
to enhance medical care in the South Bay.
So how is it going? Torrance Memorial president and CEO Craig Leach elaborates
on what has changed in the past 12 months, which expectations were met
(and in some cases exceeded) and what’s coming in the near and long-term future.
Craig, in your mind what were the main goals for the affiliation between
Cedars-Sinai and Torrance Memorial?
We all saw the potential to expand clinical talent and expertise here at
Torrance Memorial. Even though the South Bay has tremendous health care
resources, there have been gaps in some clinical areas. The affiliation
brings in Cedars-Sinai’s specialists and programs to fill in those gaps. From oncology to neuroscience,
cardiac surgery to advanced medical research, the partnership expands
our community’s access to world-class care.
What has changed and what has impacted South Bay residents the most?
It has been a very positive and productive year. Prior to the affiliation,
specialists from both organizations had worked together successfully in
treatment programs for stroke and congestive heart failure. We had a nice
head start. Now, a year into our formal affiliation, the most significant
impact has been our ability to offer even more expertise and treatment
options for our South Bay community.
For example, we now have specialists from Cedars-Sinai coming here to perform
specialized procedures that, in the past, might have made it necessary
for patients to leave the community for that level of care. Cedars-Sinai faculty in cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, cardiology, oncology,
stroke care and thoracic surgery now provide services as needed at Torrance
Memorial, supplementing existing Torrance Memorial specialists.
Have you seen actual improvements in care?
Yes, we have seen results. For instance, Cedars-Sinai physicians are working
together with the Torrance Memorial stroke specialists to provide new
capabilities to prevent the devastating impact of strokes. Cedars-Sinai
and Torrance Memorial have jointly recruited a
new neuro-endovascular surgeon who performs these very complex procedures to retrieve clots from the
brain. All of this has allowed us to provide expanded options for treatment
at the Torrance campus that we couldn’t provide before.
You can read about a patient who experienced this level of care in this
issue: Stephanie Bezner, an attorney and mother of two based in Palos
Verdes, had a rare type of brain aneurysm. She was able to be seen immediately
at Torrance Memorial by a Cedars-Sinai neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Alexander,
who had just added medical staff privileges at Torrance Memorial.
Prior to the partnership we would have had to refer her to another hospital
to deal with such a case. Stephanie recovered beautifully and credits
the alliance for not only saving her life but also keeping her close to
her family and people she loves during the ordeal (read Bezner’s story).
What about access to clinical trials?
As you know, access to clinical trials is especially important for our
cancer patients. Our collaboration with Cedars-Sinai includes bringing
on an expanded array of cancer clinical trials. In our new Hunt Cancer
Center we will also provide space for cancer subspecialists from Cedars-Sinai.
Again, what’s most important to emphasize is the expansion of clinical talent and expertise—built
on a foundation that was already strong. Our patients can continue to
receive personalized attention and services from Torrance Memorial doctors
and, if needed, will have access to Cedars-Sinai expertise and experience—without
having to jump through hoops.
Have there been any unexpected outcomes?
For one thing, we can offer our staff new opportunities for professional
development and more specialized Continuing Medical Education training,
such as the recent sessions on maternal-fetal medicine and specialized
care for very sick newborn babies.
Also, working together this past year we’ve already seen about $5 million in collective cost savings without any
negative impact on patient care. We did well last year in our cost saving
efforts, and we expect that success to continue. Whatever we are able
to save will go back into patient care, programs and services. This kind
of efficiency gives us the flexibility to do more for our patients.
How do the physicians at Torrance feel about the affiliation?
Our doctors seem extremely optimistic about the future and working with
Cedars-Sinai. They recognize the increased opportunities to fill clinical
gaps in our community and are proud to be aligned with such a prestigious
institution. The key success factor really has been the openness and collegiality
between the people at both institutions. I’ve not heard one negative word.
What about the South Bay community?
The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. While it’s hard to measure in a community of almost 900,000, we have heard a great
deal of enthusiasm from community members, staff and volunteers. People
like what we’re doing with Cedars-Sinai and are pleased that they can get that level
of care and research here at Torrance Memorial and stay in the South Bay.
At first when this alliance was announced, there seemed to be concern that
Torrance Memorial might lose its independence. How has that been avoided?
First of all, we were not sold. But I recognize that there was some confusion
about what “an affiliation” means to our individual organizations, so it’s important as we progress and grow to keep things transparent.
The current leadership—namely myself at Torrance Memorial and Tom
Priselac, who is president and CEO at Cedars-Sinai—remain in our
roles. Each institution is retaining its respective board of directors
who will focus on that organization’s community mission. But we affiliated under the new parent organization,
which is Cedars-Sinai Health System, of which Tom also serves as president.
Finally, what can people expect in 2019 and beyond?
The first and most visible outward change to the South Bay community will
be the use of our new company logo linking our two institutions. And starting
in February the new logo will appear on off campus building signage.
Then this fall, the Hunt Cancer Center will open, which will provide a
personalized, patient-centered environment for our oncology patients.
The center will consolidate Torrance Memorial’s existing cancer treatment services—including nurse navigators,
genetic counseling services and clinical research trials with Cedars-Sinai—to
one location. It also will relocate Torrance Memorial Physician Network-Cancer
Care medical group from its Redondo Beach office to the medical center’s main campus.
We believe with the progress we’ve made this year, our alliance will continue to benefit our community
and both of our organizations greatly for years to come.