Those wondering about what the future of Harrison Medical Center will look like received their answer this week in an announcement made Tuesday afternoon.
Harrison has signed a non-binding letter of intent to affiliate with the Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System to expand services, improve the delivery and quality of care and broaden access to services for individuals, employers and communities in the South Puget Sound and on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.
"This is a very positive thing for the communities we serve that can potentially very much enhance quality and reduce costs," said Harrison Medical Center President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Bosch.
Leaders of the two nonprofit health systems expect to complete the affiliation process by June 30, 2013. That work will include hammering out an actual agreement, getting approval from state and federal regulators and finalizing the deal.
Harrison's board of directors hired a consultant a year ago to look at merging or selling and decided in January that they would pursue an affiliation.
"It's a long process that should take a while," Bosch said. "This is a very long-term commitment that we're making."
With an affiliation with Franciscan, Harrison will become part of an integrated health system in Washington state with nearly 11,000 employees, 2,000 medical staff members and projected annual net revenues of $2 billion. The affiliation will enable physicians and employees at Harrison and Franciscan to collaborate and innovate in order to improve the delivery of efficient and effective inpatient, outpatient and in-home care across a broad geographic region.
“Harrison Medical Center and Franciscan Health System share similar cultures, values and goals,” said David Veterane, chair of the Harrison Medical Center Board of Directors. “We see this relationship as a way to expand the good work that has been done in our community for the past 95 years.”
The Franciscan Health System is, of course, a Catholic organization and Bosch noted that Harrison will remain a private nonprofit, secular and charitable organization.
"We are not becoming a Catholic hospital, but we will be influenced by our parent company being a Catholic organization," Bosch said, noting that the Franciscans' ethical and moral objectives to abortion and assisted suicides was a non-issue because Harrison already prohibits those things.
Bosch also said that Harrison will continue to focus on community service and providing a safety net.
"People fall through the cracks and we catch them," he said.
The new affiliation will also be good for business.
“We can enhance the services that we offer and build on the economies of scale that a larger organization can provide,” Bosch said. “In light of upcoming national reforms, this partnership helps ensure we keep our enduring promise of exceptional health care to the residents of the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas and North Mason County.”
When asked about what the affiliation would mean for Harrison employees and local jobs, Bosch said he wasn't certain.
"I think we don't know exactly how that will play out," Bosch said. "Nothing will happen till next July when we change control. We'll plan collaboratively with the Franciscans, to see what services should be consolidated. On the other hand, we also plan on collaborating for growth which could mean more locations and more jobs. It could take both forms, but we just don't have the answer to that right yet."
One thing that will not be affected by the proposed affiliation is a 54,000-square-foot Silverdale expansion to create a new multi-story orthopedic center that Bosch says remains on schedule. Harrison will also continue to maintain digital medical records, something that they were early adaptors of, but will eventually migrate to Franciscans' Epic Model System that has become the gold standard in Puget Sound.
Franciscan Health System Chief Executive Officer Joe Wilczek also expressed optimism about the deal with Harrison.
“An affiliation between our organizations will benefit the community for generations," Wilczek said. "Both Harrison and Franciscan have long traditions of service. Each provides health care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Our shared mission and values, as well as our shared commitment to excellence, will allow us to work together to better serve residents throughout the region.”
The letter of intent is the first step in the affiliation process. The affiliation must be approved by both the Harrison and Franciscan boards and will be reviewed by the Washington State Department of Health and other regulatory agencies before taking effect. The integration of the two organizations is expected to take place over time according to a plan that will be developed during the next phase of the affiliation process.
Affiliation discussions were prompted by the changing national and local health care environments, combined with the need to ensure that exceptional health care is available for residents of our community well into the future. This relationship will achieve that goal.
Harrison entities that will be part of the affiliation with Franciscan include Harrison Medical Center campuses in Bremerton and Silverdale, Harrison’s Urgent Care Centers in Belfair and Port Orchard, Harrison HealthPartners medical group, and Harrison Home Health. The Harrison Foundation will remain independent. Harrison, which has about 2,400 employees, is the largest private employer in Kitsap County. It has a medical staff of more than 400 physicians representing 40 medical specialties. Founded in 1918, Harrison has evolved from a small community hospital into a regional medical center serving patients from Kitsap, North Mason, Clallam and Jefferson counties with locations in Bremerton, Silverdale, Port Orchard, Belfair, Poulsbo and Forks. To learn about Harrison’s many health care services, call 866-844-WELL or visit www.harrisonmedical.org.
Franciscan Health System includes St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor; St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma; St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood; St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way; St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw; Franciscan Hospice House in University Place; and the Franciscan Medical Group network of primary- and specialty-care clinics in Kitsap, Pierce and King counties. Franciscan has 8,400 employees and 1,550 medical staff members representing nearly 45 medical specialties. The organization has served the community since 1891. Franciscan is part of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national non-profit health organization with headquarters in Englewood, Colo. CHI is the nation’s second-largest Catholic health care system. Franciscan online: www.FHShealth.org