Summa Health will bring in an outside firm that specializes in performance improvement and corporate finance, but its leader said that’s not a sign of financial troubles.

Interim President and CEO Dr. Cliff Deveny sent a memo to the health-care provider’s roughly 7,000 employees Monday. Deveny alerted employees that the firm, Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) and its managing partner, Richard Cascio, or his colleagues may contact them during the 120-day contract.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Deveny said there is nothing unusual about the firm coming in to evaluate. Summa has undergone a financial performance improvement project every year since 2013, when it entered into a 10-year agreement for Cincinnati-based Mercy Health to be its minority partner, Deveny said.

Last year, Summa invited Mercy to perform the audit, he said, and the Summa board decided to ask A&M to do it this year.

“This is just a board-directed continuation. It was not asked for by one party or another,” Deveny said, referring to Summa and Mercy. “This is to keep the pedal to the metal and continue to have a sustainable performance.

“At the end of the day, this health system needs to be in Akron to serve the needs of the community.”

In his memo, Deveny shared that “we have made a great deal of progress this year throughout Summa Health, but there still is a lot more work to do.”

There has been significant financial progress in the last 12 months, he said.

Current results through May show a year-to-date operating income of $7.2 million, or a positive operating margin of 1.3 percent. That exceeds Summa’s original budgeted operating margin of $6.1 million.

“To put this into greater perspective, for the same time period in 2017, Summa Health lost $31 million for an operating margin of negative 5.8 percent. It should be noted that this year’s performance has been bolstered by one-time gains that we don’t expect to receive again, however, we should all be very proud of this improvement,” Deveny said.

“At the same time, despite this better financial performance, the reality is we still continue to face extreme downward pressure on revenues and upward pressure on expenses,” he wrote in the memo.

The goal is to achieve approximately $40 million in additional improvement through initiatives “such as more efficient care for our patients and members, streamlining supply chain, improving revenue cycle and reducing pharmacy costs for both Summa and SummaCare.”

Deveny was hired as Summa’s interim president and chief executive officer last March following the resignation of CEO Dr. Thomas Malone amid demands by hundreds of doctors for a change in leadership. The situation was exacerbated with the abrupt changeover in Summa’s emergency room physician staffing in January 2017 and the subsequent loss of accreditation to train emergency medicine resident physicians.

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty