NVH and Three Rivers discuss collaboration between hospital districts

TONASKET — Representatives of North Valley Hospital and Three Rivers Hospital districts held a special meeting to discuss the possible collaboration of the two facilities, including sharing one CEO.

The discussion took place at a special meeting held at the District boardroom on Thursday, June 29. NVH Interim CEO John McReynolds talked about the case for change.

“I’m nearing my one year mark and in that time I’ve had a lot of opportunities to meet with CEOs at hospitals in Okanogan County and up at Republic in Ferry County and really even more broader than that, but particularly in the Okanogan group. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to have conversations about the various challenges each organization is facing,” said McReynolds

The Interim CEO continued, “One of the things that is very apparent when you talk to the group of CEOs is that we are all grappling with the same realities and same concerns for our long term viability and the same concerns about how we can continue to offer health care in Okanogan County. And, how can we continue to be that really important employer in our small communities. All of us I would say are facing that same reality and trying to make decisions that support our community and continue to insure the services we provide are viable ”

Three Rivers Hospital District CEO Scott Graham spoke Thursday evening as well.

“You would be sharing salaries across two organizations rather than each organization having to bear the full weight of that. That would reduce administrative overhead and this could potentially begin the cycle of finding other kinds of opportunities to collaborate and share services towards the same end. Which is reducing cost,” said Three Rivers’ Graham. “We don’t have to do it. It’s simply an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often.”

North Valley Hospital Board Vice President Jerry Bradley gave his outlook on Graham and the possible collaboration

“I was involved in the process of reviewing resumes that we received.” Jerry expressed that he was impressed. “ Scott is of the mindset of stop cutting and start growing. Try to generate as much revenue as we can with what resources are already here.”

NVH Board Secretary Dick Larson also commented on the opportunity to combine services between NVH in Tonasket and TRH in Brewster.

“This is kind of an out of the box thinking thing,” said Larson. After talking with John It’s really important that these hospitals stay seperate and strong. If we are different that that’s okay. The goal is to keep the hospitals going and to bring the money into these communities. That’s what we need.”

NVH Commissioner Herb Wandler said he had an opportunity to work with Graham for many years on the Caribou Trail board.

“One thing he talks about is collaboration. I think overall Scott has so much knowledge about health care and how it should operate,” said Wandler.

All of the board members echoed the same positive outlook on the opportunity for collaboration. All appeared to be in agreement that collaboration of both hospitals would be a proactive move.

“We are stronger together than we are separately.” said Graham.

Roger Castelda who was in attendance at the meeting asked, “Do you think you’re going to have a time date on it. A Year? Two years? Or just for a trial period?”

“Actually that hasn’t been discussed. I think we want to go through this process and get community involvement…,” replied Mick Howe, North Valley Hospital District’s attorney.

Castelda also posed the question, “Are we all going to keep our separate boards?”

The unanimous answer from the board was that they would.

“I think it’s a great idea to consolidate and have one CEO,” Castelda said.

Many from the public showed positive support for connection between both hospitals and voiced the crucial need to keep our hospitals thriving.

Several members from the Three Rivers Hospital staff were in attendance and unanimously gave their support to the idea of collaboration.

“I think it was important for us and for the people to see that we are supportive of this.” said Chief Nursing officer and Executive Director of Patient Care, Gretchen Aguilar from Three Rivers..

Each staff member and board member from Three Rivers Hospital who attended the meeting had nothing but positive adoration for Scott Graham. Many of them said they had learned a great deal through his mentorship.

Three Rivers Chief Operating Officer, Melanie Neddo, echoed Aguilar’s approval and said, “Any organization that gets Scott is a lucky one.”

Graham said the two hospitals joining forces could potentially be a new model for other hospitals in the state facing the same kinds of issues.

“We could bring a lot of positive attention to our area. This could be a real opportunity to do something great ” Graham said. “It’s a bit of an experiment, but that’s how you get to great… you have to try something….”

Doug Wilson, a family doctor in Tonasket for past 14 years said, “It’s been interesting watching this region adapt over the years. Healthcare has changed a lot even in this time period.”

Wilson said this is a chance to look at things in a new way. “I think the value is getting to know each other, getting to work on common goals together and figuring out how to coordinate the care and that is probably the essential thing here. I really applaud that the board would be willing to think outside the box . It’s always dangerous to try new things but it sounds like we got a sensible way to take littles steps at a time and I’m very positive about this.”

Graham will be talking with the public about the proposed plan of collaboration between North Valley and Three Rivers Hospital districts to share CEOs to better serve the communities and share costs tonight, Thursday, July 5 at North Valley Hospital Verbeck building courtyard between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.