PeaceHealth, Catholic Health Initiatives suspend plan for joint-venture

PeaceHealth and Catholic Health Initiatives have suspended talks to enter a joint-venture that would have created an integrated, regional health care system spanning the Pacific Northwest.

The two nonprofit, Catholic health care systems signed a nonbinding agreement last August to explore the joint-venture. But despite commonalities, the organizations were “unable to develop an integrated model that would provide the desired benefits and serve the best interests of both organizations,” according to a joint press release issued April 3.

The alliance would have combined CHI hospitals and care facilities in Washington and Oregon with PeaceHealth’s hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. The new health care system was expected to have about 26,000 employees and nearly 950 doctors, and generate annual revenue close to $4 billion, according to PeaceHealth and CHI. The two organizations were to be equal partners in the plan.

The joint-venture had its critics.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Washington state challenged the affiliation between PeaceHealth and CHI, expressing concern that the partnership could restrict legal access to reproductive care, access to birth control and abortion services, and certain end-of-life care options commonly available in publicly run hospitals. Other detractors worried over how the two organizations’ missions and operating values would be aligned, with CHI being perceived as potentially more restrictive of reproductive and end-of-life services.

PeaceHealth spokesperson Jenny Ulum said the operating values between the two systems did not play a role in the decision to suspend the discussions.

When announcements of the planned joint-venture were initially made, executives from both organizations said the alliance would help them take advantage of health care economies of both skill and scale, as well as allow for better bargaining strength with medical suppliers and cut operating costs.

Despite the joint-venture stalling, CHI and PeaceHealth “will remain actively engaged in exploring other opportunities to work together to strengthen their respective ministries in the Pacific Northwest,” according to the April 3 press release.

Evan Marczynski, lead reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or 

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