PeaceHealth to sell its lab services, including in Bellingham

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center is located at 2901 Squalicum Parkway in Bellingham.
PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center is located at 2901 Squalicum Parkway in Bellingham. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

PeaceHealth is selling its laboratory services to another company, and that could impact some workers in Whatcom County.

In a deal announced Wednesday, Quest Diagnostics will manage 11 laboratories PeaceHealth operates mostly in hospitals in Washington state, Alaska and Oregon. PeaceHealth will maintain ownership of those labs, including the one at St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham.

Quest Diagnostics also will purchase eight patient centers throughout Whatcom County. According to its website, PeaceHealth has six in Bellingham, one in Ferndale and one in Lynden. The patient centers are typically places where people can go to get blood tests and other services.

The deal is expected to be completed this spring after a regulatory review. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

This early in the transaction, it is unclear how staffing levels will be impacted in Bellingham. According to The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene, Ore., a document addressed to employees indicated that the transaction will likely result in a reduction of about 500 positions within PeaceHealth Laboratories across Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Quest Diagnostics is hiring for around 275 of those positions, said Wendy Bost, a senior director of corporate communications for Quest.

PeaceHealth officials did not provide information on how many people work in the lab at the Bellingham hospital.

A positive aspect in the transaction is that patients will have greater access to services, said Mike Dwyer, executive vice president for strategy and community health at PeaceHealth. Quest has labs across the U.S., including in some stores and shopping centers, so patients can get tests done outside the area if they are on vacation, he said. In Bellingham, Quest has a patient center in the Barkley district.

In a news release, PeaceHealth president and CEO Liz Dunne said the deal was made to keep its commitment to care that is both accessible and sustainable.

“In our current healthcare landscape, that sometimes means collaborating with organizations that offer the data, tools and resources necessary to stay ahead of the curve in specialized services,” Dunne said. “After thorough and thoughtful consideration, it became clear that Quest Diagnostics offers the expertise to enhance our services and increase convenient access to care in our communities.”

Quest Diagnostics is headquartered in New Jersey and has 43,000 employees. In November 2016 the company was hit with a data breach that exposed data to about 34,000 people, but the company said the vulnerability was immediately addressed and no financial information was stolen.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz