Skagit hospitals seek public comments before partnership decision


MOUNT VERNON - Three hospitals in Skagit and Island counties are asking for comments and questions Wednesday, July 31, about an upcoming partnership with a larger health care provider - including concerns about faith-based providers such as PeaceHealth.

The meeting starts at 5 p.m. in McIntyre Hall at Skagit Valley College, 2501 E. College Way, Mount Vernon.

There, the boards of Skagit Valley, Island and Cascade Valley hospitals will explain how the process of choosing a partner works and their progress on finding one of their own.

The three local hospitals formed a partnership in November 2011 in an effort to lower costs, attract physicians and provide more local services and specialty care. In January, chief executive officers of the hospitals said they would seek to partner with a larger regional health care provider.

The local partnership received responses from Providence/Swedish, UW Medicine, PeaceHealth and Virginia Mason Medical Center.

PeaceHealth, a not-for-profit system based in Clark County and founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, provides much of the health care in Whatcom County and operates the only hospital in Bellingham.

Since UW Medicine announced its own partnership with PeaceHealth, proposals are being considered jointly by the local partnership, a letter from Clark Todd, president of the Skagit Valley Hospital board of commissioners, noted on Thursday.

Of the three remaining suitors, both PeaceHealth and Providence have ties to the Catholic Church.

People have raised questions as to whether affiliating with a faith-based provider would impact the availability of reproductive services or patient-doctor conversations about Death with Dignity.

The boards of the three local hospitals intend to make a decision before September.

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