With USC's acquisition of Verdugo Hills Hospital finalized last week, doctors on staff at Verdugo Hills are saying the merger's impact likely will be a mixed bag.

Dr. Ben Pradhan, an orthopedic surgeon, said USC’s acquisition of the hospital will have upsides and downsides for healthcare in the foothills area.

“It’s win-lose if they improve the facilities, but they’ll also send patients down [to Keck Medical Center] and do the cases at USC, as opposed to at a local hospital,” he said.

Verdugo Hills is a 158-bed facility serving people from Tujunga to La Cañada. It has more than 750 employees.

Pradhan said that for specialist procedures such as spinal surgeries, which he performs, or high-level cancer treatment, Verdugo Hills was already sending patients to larger local hospitals such as Glendale Adventist Medical Center or Huntington Memorial Hospital.

He said the change will mean patients will now be directed to USC for those procedures.

“USC probably had more money [than Glendale Adventist] to align with Verdugo Hills and get the patients,” he said. “Most patients rely on their primary-care doctors to point them toward a good subspecialist.”

Michael Klein, an internist at Verdugo Hills, said he is waiting to find out more details before deciding how the acquisition will impact the facility.

“I feel the sale will be good for USC. As for our staff, our community, our patients or local physicians, the future is still unknown,” Klein said.

For nurses, however, the merger should have a positive effect, said Judy McCrudy, vice president for patient care services at Verdugo Hills.

“I think it gives them great educational opportunities to further their profession,” she said. “We do have a lot of lunch-and-learn opportunities here, (and) we look forward to seeing USC (participate in) that same program with us.”

Although USC Medical Center employs union nurses from the California Nurses Assn., Verdugo Hills does not, and McCrudy said that there are no plans currently to bring Verdugo Hills nurses into the union or to disrupt staffing.

“We still remain independent in terms of our medical staff, our leadership, organizational structure. We have our own [human resources] policies, we have our own procedures we go by,” she said.

Down the line, however, Verdugo Hills will look for opportunities to coordinate with USC on best practices in these areas, according to McCrudy.

Pradhan said that overall, he expects USC’s new healthcare presence in the foothills will end up helping all hospitals in the area.

“It’s like a free-market thing. The local hospitals are competing to be the best, so with more competition, everyone wants to do better,” he said.

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