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Harrison considers partnership with another system

Harrison Medical Center is evaluating the idea of partnering up with a larger health care system and reviewing proposals from both Washington-based and out-of state organizations. Ten proposals have been received by mid-March, including from faith-based, secular, nonprofit and for-profit providers.

“We’re pleased with the quality of the proposals we’ve received,” said Bob Cross, Harrison’s executive director of strategic development.

Harrison Medical Center, a 93-year-old nonprofit, announced in January that it had retained a national consulting firm last October to guide it through the process of evaluating whether becoming part of a larger system would be more beneficial than remaining independent.

“It’s safe to say Harrison is in a very strong position. We have a strong balance sheet, strong market share and a very vibrant long-range strategy,” said CEO Scott Bosch. “So we thought this was a good time to have this conversation.”

He said the board has first considered the idea about three years ago. “I think they moved from the question, can we remain independent, to, should we remain independent. Is there a better way to organize health care on the Peninsula? It’s a legitimate question,” he said.

Harrison is one of few remaining large health-care providers that are independently owned in Puget Sound. In recent years, the area has seen several examples of partnerships including mergers and clinical affiliations.

“There are economies of scale, such as sharing of resources and expanded expertise. Different organizations could bring different things to the table,” Cross said. “As we march forward with health-care reform, different organizations are better equipped to deal with the changes, and this is an opportunity to look at those options. The board is always looking at what the future holds and what they can do.”

Bosch said one example of how a partnership could be beneficial is the $7 million data center project.

“If we were to become part of a system, it’s likely our partner would already have that capacity and we wouldn’t need to invest that capital locally,” he said, adding that affiliation doesn’t mean Harrison would become a 1,000-bed hospital system.

The review of the applications is expected to take several weeks, and a follow-up discussion could commence with the top candidates. Cross said an affiliation advisory committee is assisting the board and is comprised of board and executive team members as well as physicians.

“Many times, when this is done in a community, it’s done behind closed doors,” Bosch said. “The board is being transparent with the community, staff and physicians.”

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