Hospitals join forces

Kalispell, Whitefish boards approve collaboration

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The Flathead Valley’s two hospitals now are closer together.

In separate actions this month, the governing boards of North Valley Hospital and Kalispell Regional Healthcare voted in favor of a collaborative affiliation relationship between the two organizations.

The new arrangement is to take effect Jan. 1, 2016.

The collaboration is designed to enhance the delivery of health care in the Flathead Valley and Northwest Montana, according to a news release from the hospitals on Friday. The votes follow more than two years of exploratory discussions on whether working jointly would improve access, quality and efficiency of care.

“The North Valley Hospital Governing Board believes that this relationship is in the best interest of our community, our hospital and Kalispell Regional Healthcare,” said Steve Stahlberg, chairman of the North Valley Hospital Board of Directors.

“Based on the feedback we received from employees, medical staff and the communities we serve, we attempted to develop an affiliation structure that preserved key aspects of North Valley Hospital that were identified as important to each group,” Stahlberg said. “The affiliation proposal does provide for us to become part of an outstanding health-care system that is integrated both clinically and financially.”

A joint task force was launched in July 2013 to explore opportunities for collaboration between the Kalispell and Whitefish hospitals. The task force recommended affiliation between the two organizations.

One of the goals of the task force was to preserve each hospital’s unique business model, cultural identity and community philanthropic support base.

The Kalispell Regional Healthcare Board of Directors voted in favor of the recommendations Oct. 9. The North Valley Hospital Board of Directors voted in favor Oct. 27.

“This level of collaboration is so important for our community,” said Dr. Gwen Jonas, chairwoman of the Kalispell Regional Healthcare Board of Directors. “Both organizations are committed to providing affordable, quality health care that is unrivaled anywhere else in Montana.”

The two organizations expect to develop more resources together to meet the health needs of the community, allowing patients to access services they need locally instead of going without or having to travel out of the area.

Key attributes of the agreement include:

q Maintaining the name, mission, charitable purposes and tax-exempt status of North Valley Hospital;

q Continuing the current scope of services provided by North Valley Hospital, including the Emergency Department; Obstetrics (Delivery); Inpatient and Outpatient Medical/Surgical procedures; and ancillary services that directly support these service lines;

q On an annual basis for at least five years, completing an annual report on the progress and community benefits of the affiliation and publishing that report to the communities within the Flathead Valley;

q Continuing to operate North Valley Hospital as a separate critical access, general acute-care hospital;

q Maintaining North Valley Hospital’s Board of Directors while creating shared governance by having board members of each organization serving on the other organization’s board;

q Maintaining the North Valley Hospital Foundation reporting structure to the North Valley Hospital Governing Board, along with its focus on north valley philanthropic efforts; and

q Enhancing the recruitment and sharing of physicians and other clinical staff.

Following the votes of the boards, a nonbinding memorandum of intent has been signed by Stahlberg and Velinda Stevens, chief executive officer of Kalispell Regional Healthcare.

That begins a process of working out the final details of the affiliation plan to have the affiliation in place by Jan. 1, 2016. Both boards will have to approve the final affiliation agreement.

To learn more about the organizations, visit kalispellregional.org or nvhosp.org.

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