University Partners with Moses Taylor for Georgian Initiative

May 5, 2009
    Health care administrators from Georgia, a country with a population of fewer than 5 million in the former Soviet Union, are getting valuable firsthand experience in health care administration, thanks to a new partnership between The University of Scranton and The Moses Taylor Health Care System (MTHCS).
    Scranton recently received a $100,000 grant to direct an initiative to train health care administrators for a new hospital under construction in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city. The grant is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American International Health Alliance (AIHA).
    The university is partnering with MTH to implement a one-year health-management hospital project. Since 1999, The University of Scranton has been the principal trainer of Georgian health care providers in the United States. The project represents the latest step in this health care initiative, according to Daniel J. West Jr., Ph.D., professor and chair of health administration and human resources at the university.
    “We are introducing a new way of training health care administrators,” explained Dr. West. “Formerly, all directors in the USSR health care system were physicians. Now people trained in management are being hired by health care facilities in Georgia, and there is a market demand.”
    Moses Taylor Hospital is collaborating with numerous private health care providers in Georgia for the training process, including MediClub Georgia Co. Ltd – Medical Services Company (MCG), a limited liability company that has been providing medical services in Georgia for 10 years. MCG is launching the new hospital project.
    Under the terms of the partnership, MCG is sending Georgian health care providers to Moses Taylor to complete two- to three-week training programs in specific fields. Moses Taylor, which has 173 beds and a staff of more 1,500, acts as a model hospital, as it is approximately the same size as the hospital being built in Tbilisi.
    “We’ve been working with health care professionals from Georgia for the past 10 years,” said Michael Costello, vice president of corporate development at Moses Taylor Hospital and adjunct faculty in the department of health administration and human resources at The University of Scranton. “In our most recent grant, we have had officials involved with hospital privatization who have visited MTH to learn how private hospitals function in this country. It is a mutually rewarding experience, and we look forward to working with our Georgian colleagues at every available opportunity,” he added.
    Dr. West is partnership coordinator and leader of a consortium of three U.S. universities: The University of Scranton; St. Louis University, a Jesuit university; and The University of Central Florida. These three schools are collaborating with two Georgian institutions, the University of Georgia and Caucasus University, to provide managerial training for Georgian health care providers.
    This represents a specific and unique program that is previously unheard of in Georgia, according to Dr. West. A system of comprehensive health care was unavailable until recently, and there are no sources in Georgia for formal education in health care administration.
    The partnership has its roots in the health care system that developed after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.
    “The Soviet model of medical care featured free, centrally budgeted medical care for everyone,” said Dr. West. “Each district or region featured a 150-bed hospital, and a two-week stay for hospital patients was typical. There were well-designed model hospitals with satellite clinics.”
    After the move to a market economy, Georgia’s economic system deteriorated, as did its medical care. Health care providers continued to treat patients, but the government was unable to reimburse those providers for costs of care. Employees’ salaries were stopped, and such basics as electricity and heat in facilities were cut off. Medicines and medical equipment became scarce or nonexistent.
    In 2007 a new government came to power and began rebuilding the system based on a privatization model, with aid from Europe, Asia and government organizations such as USAID and AIHA.
    Although Georgian hospitals feature some medical services, modern hospitals as most Americans would know them do not exist, and medical care is still unaffordable for much of the Georgian population, which suffers from high unemployment rates and poverty.
    “The coordination of care is not well developed,” said Dr. West. “Patients do not have access to the full range of medical services they need in some regions, and physicians often lack access to medical technology and diagnostic services in some areas.”
    The University of Scranton became involved in 1999 when it began training health care administrators in Tbilisi through an interdisciplinary approach. During the past 10 years, groups of students and faculty from Scranton have visited Georgia for training and interaction with health care professionals. In 2007-08, a group of MBA students and faculty members completed specialized courses in hospital administration and health insurance management at the two Georgian institutions with assistance from The University of Scranton.
    Two health care administrators have completed the Moses Taylor training program in fall 2008, and with another two planning to attend training sessions in April. Future plans also include a new course on bioethics in Georgia, as well as a training program for faculty conducted by Dr. West at the University of Georgia.
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