Hospital announces “affiliation” with MultiCare Health System

Grays Harbor Community Hospital announced Friday that it has signed a letter of intent to “establish an affiliation network” between the hospital and Tacoma-based MultiCare Health System.

The non-profit health organization operates five hospitals in Pierce and south King counties, including Tacoma General and Mary Bridge. It also operates primary care and urgent care clinics, hospice and home health services and more.

Officials said the agreement with MultiCare will leave Grays Harbor Community Hospital under local control. The hospital has experienced financial troubles in the past few years.

“Grays Harbor Community Hospital will remain locally owned and independent,” Grays Harbor Community Hospital Board Chairwoman Sharon Schermer said in a joint press release. “This new collaboration allows for integration of services to provide expanded access to specialists …

“Details of the collaboration, including start date, are being discussed,” Schermer added.

No details on any financial arrangements associated with the affiliation were available, and it was unclear if the affiliation would directly help the hospital’s financial situation. The hospital declined to comment at this time on any further details of the arrangement.

“We’re still in the early stages of this process, so many of those details are still being worked out,” said MultiCare spokeswoman Marce Edwards. She added that this type of affiliation was unlike any arrangement MultiCare has entered into to date.

“This is something new,” she said. “Grays Harbor invited us to submit a proposal … and this was the agreemen t that met both of our needs.”

Community Hospital made significant staff and salary cuts last year. In March of 2012, it instituted a “workforce reduction” that included hours reductions, layoffs and salary cuts affecting 25 to 35 workers. At the same time, the hospital also cut all non-union salaries by 10 percent, including all supervisors, managers and executive staff. Four months later, it eliminated the equivalent of another eight positions.

Hospital officials have cited decreases in reimbursement rates, and increases in charity care and unpaid medical bills as the sources of much of the financial difficulties the hospital has faced.

In the joint press release, the organizations said the arrangement “will bring together the resources of two strong health care providers” and “will work together to share clinical best practices and expand services in Grays Harbor County and the surrounding region.”

“MultiCare Health System is recognized both locally and nationally as being a leader in the provision of care, their commitment to patients, their investment in technology and their involvement in the communities they serve,” said Grays Harbor Community Hospital CEO Tom Jensen said in the release. “We are excited to work with an organization that is so closely aligned to our mission and vision.”