One presentation of special interest was the feasibility study of a joint venture between University Hospital Aachen (UKA) in Germany and Maastricht University Medical Centre (MUMC) in the Netherlands. Commissioned from the consulting firm KPMG, the study, covering several hundred pages, focused on their joint establishment of a first European University Hospital, which was found to be legally and financially viable. In addition, it concluded that the further development of their partnership in this direction will serve to enhance quality and the international competitiveness of both institutions in terms of patient care, research and teaching.
The consultancy reported that it paid detailed attention to healthcare trends on both sides of the border, analysed the position of both institutions in their respective markets and examined ways to intensify a partnership that has existed for several years. The study recommends even greater pooling of resources and developing existing strengths on both sides, for example cardiovascular diseases as a joint treatment and research specialisation. It will be necessary to achieve this in a context of increasing cost pressures on both sides of the Dutch-German border and the necessity to provide high performance medicine and top-level research while meeting efficiency criteria to safeguard future success. ‘We are working towards a decisive strategic approach to the development of the hospital, research and joint overall corporate responsibility. In terms of a forward vision, this means joint management at board level, together with a joint IT, controlling and invoicing platform,’ explained Prof Henning Saß, Chairman of the Aachen hospital.
From a patient’s viewpoint, it is important that the regional care facilities in both Maastricht and Aachen remain unaffected. No one should have to worry about having to travel long distances for standard treatments in future due to this partnership, which will also benefit patients for example through the shared expertise between medical practitioners from both countries. There are also plans to set up an oncology network to improve treatment for cancer patients further. The intention is to establish a European centre of excellence focusing on specific, highly specialised fields, in which both the UMC and the UKA already have outstanding expertise. It is planned that these core services will be available at a third location, right on the border between the two countries, at the Avantis Technology Park (situated c. 5 km from Aachen; 25 km from Maastricht). There, a cardiovascular centre and particle therapy centre are planned for innovative radiotherapy treatments. ‘We are assuming that a centre of this kind will also be highly attractive for international patients and researchers,’ MUMC Chairman Guy Peeters, pointed out. A joint paediatric heart centre could become an integral part of this cardiovascular centre, the organisers report. ‘Until now only Aachen has had a department of paediatric cardiac surgery and paediatric cardiologists in Aachen and Maastricht are assigned to different specialist hospitals. Both boards wish to develop a joint infrastructure with joint medical equipment for healthcare provision.’
Based on the study’s recommendations, the supervisory boards of both institutions have instructed the boards to develop the partnership between the two university hospitals further by the beginning of 2009.