Grays Harbor Community Hospital and MultiCare Health System announced Wednesday they’ve finalized their affiliation agreement, opening the door to increased access to specialists and easier patient transfers for Harborites.
“Even though we’re a smaller community, it’s going to give us access to more specialists,” said Community Hospital Director of Public Relations David Quigg. “It’s going to give more people the opportunity to come here and practice, which will support the medical community that’s already here.”
“MultiCare is committed to improving the health of residents through the South Sound, and through this partnership, we’ll be able to ensure that the community has access to the health services they need,” MultiCare spokeswoman Marce Edwards said. It’s the first time the five-hospital system has entered into such an agreement.
Quigg said the hospital’s board has been looking for an affiliate for about two years, talking to about half a dozen health care systems before deciding on MultiCare.
“When we began our search for a potential affiliate, our board was very specific about the qualities they were looking to bring to our community. These criteria included quality, patient-centered care, improving access to needed services and the ability and desire to share best practices — all from a community-based organization whose vision and mission would be in line with ours. MultiCare Health Systems was the clear choice for our board, physicians and executive leadership,” Community Hospital CEO Tom Jensen said in a press release. “Their experience, expertise and commitment to community will certainly support our patients and medical community.”
“MultiCare is a non-profit organization just like Grays Harbor Community Hospital, and they understand how to deal with varied populations, from people that are indigent that need 100 percent assistance to people that need specialty procedures,” Quigg said. “They really run the gamut.”
The details of the affiliation are still being worked out, but hospital officials were clear Community Hospital will remain an independent, non-profit organization. It’s more akin to adding Community as a sister hospital or a member of MultiCare’s network.
Before, if a patient needed to transfer to a different hospital for specialty care, doctors and patients would have to shop around to find a place that would agree to take him or her. Now, Quigg said, doctors can transfer patients to a MultiCare hospital that offers the service the patient needs.
And if a patient needs a complex procedure they can’t get locally, like heart surgery, Quigg said, “It’s going to give patients the opportunity to have pre-op done here, and then have the follow-up care done here. So they don’t have to go up to the Tacoma-Seattle area for every single appointment.”
Community Hospital has a longstanding working relationship with MultiCare: It sends babies needing neonatal intensive care to MultiCare’s Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and mothers needing specialized obstetric service to MultiCare’s Tacoma General Hospital.
“We’ve been transferring all our pediatric patients — the preemies — and also sick moms to MultiCare hospitals for as long as anybody here can remember,” Quigg said.
The affiliation wasn’t a financial decision — “We’re stable,” Quigg said — but being able to offer more service could help bring more business to the hospital as well as make health care less of a hassle for patients.
Doctors from MultiCare hospitals may come to Community Hospital on a regular basis, possibly one or two days a week. Quigg said they’re still working out which specialists may be requested based on input from patients and doctors.
At this point, he didn’t expect any significant difference in fees between seeing visiting specialists and seeing them at their home practices.
“There can be some variance, but it’s competitively priced. So they wouldn’t charged you more to have it done in Grays Harbor rather than Olympia. They’re here to help us and support us, so they’re in it for the right reasons,” he said.
The agreement will also provide another avenue for education for doctors and administrators.
“It’s clinical education, it’s leadership education and it’s hands-on clinical training. We have a robust education department here on Grays Harbor, but this gives us an opportunity to see more things,” Quigg said.
“We are honored to partner with Grays Harbor and look forward to helping to improve access to specialty care for area residents,” said Diane Cecchettini, RN, President and CEO of MultiCare Health System.
“Our two systems have collaborated for years and we deeply appreciate their commitment to delivering high-quality, compassionate care.”
MultiCare Health System, founded in 1882, operates five hospitals in Pierce and South King counties, including Tacoma General Hospital and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. Grays Harbor Community Hospital, founded in 1890, operates two campuses — one providing acute care and the other a specialty medical center.