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Enumclaw’s St. Elizabeth Hospital part of healthcare merger

Enumclaw’s St. Elizabeth Hospital is one part in a newly-announced plan that would create a major healthcare system throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Catholic Health Initiatives and PeaceHealth, two nonprofit health care systems, have signed a nonbinding letter of intent to create a new, regional system that would aim to improve care and access for individuals, employers and communities across the region.

St. Elizabeth is owned by the Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System, which is part of Catholic Health Initiatives, a faith-based system with headquarters in Englewood, Colo.

The proposed – and yet unnamed – partnership would combine seven CHI hospitals in Washington and Oregon with nine PeaceHealth hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. The new organization would include nearly 26,000 employees and about 950 employed physicians serving in hospitals, physician clinics, outpatient care clinics, long-term care facilities, laboratories and private homes across the region.

PeaceHealth is based in Vancouver, Wash.

The new organization, with annual revenues of almost $4 billion, would attempt to build on the strengths of both organizations to better manage care and resources in a rapidly changing health care environment.

“As a part of Catholic Health Initiatives, we believe this partnership will expand and sustain our healing ministry that has been essential to the quality of life in our South Puget Sound communities since 1891,” said Joe Wilczek, Franciscan’s chief executive officer.

Franciscan services that would become part of the new regional system include St. Elizabeth in Enumclaw, along with St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma; St. Francis Hospital, Federal Way; St. Clare Hospital, Lakewood; St. Anthony Hospital, Gig Harbor; the Franciscan Medical Group network of clinics, physicians, and professional providers in Pierce, King and Kitsap counties; Franciscan Hospice and Palliative Care; and all other Franciscan programs. The medical center on Griffin Avenue in Enumclaw is part of the expansive network.

The nonbinding letter of intent is the first step in the partnership process. Leaders of Catholic Health Initiatives and PeaceHealth expect to form the new system before June 30, 2013. The two organizations will be equal partners.

Discussions were prompted by a rapidly changing health care environment that demands the ability to accept more financial risk in caring for defined populations, like Medicaid recipients. The partners will reduce costs by making infrastructure investments more efficiently as a single organization.

The new organization will also include two CHI hospitals in Oregon, physician practices and related services, in addition to the Franciscan Health System’s facilities and services.

PeaceHealth operates three hospitals in Washington – Bellingham, Longview and Vancouver – with another scheduled to open this fall in Friday Harbor. It also has one hospital in Alaska and four in Oregon.

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