Two leading Roman Catholic health systems last week signed a letter of intent to create a new four-hospital system serving eastern Oregon and western Idaho, in a move both systems say would better coordinate care for residents in the sparsely populated region.
Forging a new system
CHI, Trinity agree to merge hospitals in Idaho, Ore.
Although the terms of the deal are yet to be worked out, Catholic Health Initiatives, Denver, would sell three hospitals to Trinity Health, headquartered in Novi, Mich. The sale is expected to close by early next year and is subject to customary regulatory approval.
The hospitals that would switch ownership to Trinity are: 118-bed Mercy Medical Center in Nampa, Idaho; 49-bed Holy Rosary Medical Center in Ontario, Ore.; and 25-bed St. Elizabeth Health Services in Baker City, Ore.
The new regional system would be anchored by Trinity Health’s 351-bed St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.
“We think it will strengthen the overall Catholic health ministry and better serve the residents of the local communities,” said David Goode, a senior vice president for CHI.
All four not-for-profit hospitals are strung along Interstate 84, which runs from Portland, Ore., through Boise, then east toward Salt Lake City.
St. Elizabeth Health Services, for instance, is a critical-access hospital serving the small community of Baker City, which is about two hours from Boise. Holy Rosary, in Ontario, Ore., serves an agricultural trade community on the Idaho border, Goode said. “The lines of patient referrals and lines of trade for these communities flow to Boise,” Goode said.
Both systems said that if the transaction is completed, the change won’t adversely affect services or staffing at the facilities.
Services would improve across the region, said Sally Jeffcoat, president and CEO of St. Alphonsus. “This is really an opportunity to strengthen an already great relationship,” she said. St. Alphonsus offers telemedicine and other programs at the three hospitals, and coordinates with all three to deliver care, Jeffcoat said.
Combined, the new system would have about 4,400 employees, she said.
The new system would seek to fill gaps in primary-care services and certain specialties, such as stroke care and women’s health, as well as align resources, such as electronic health records and other health information technology, Jeffcoat added.
CHI is battling Kansas Attorney General Steve Six over a decision to close another critical-access hospital in Kansas. Six filed a lawsuit two weeks ago to stop CHI from terminating its Medicare provider agreement with 25-bed St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Larned. CHI announced in June it would close the hospital with a target date of Sept. 30 (Aug. 31, p. 20).
There have been few hospital ownership changes in rural Oregon and it’s key that no facilities are lost, said Robert Duehmig, spokesman for the Oregon Office of Rural Health at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.
St. Elizabeth, as a critical-access hospital, is especially important to the community, Duehmig said, because of the long driving distance to other acute-care facilities. “The most important aspect, from our perspective, is that the facilities remain strong,” he said.
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