The PeaceHealth medical group has signed an agreement that will make UW Medicine a chosen provider of more complex care to patients in PeaceHealth’s Northwest Network.
The agreement became effective Sept. 12. It does not involve changes in ownership or governance of either UW Medicine or PeaceHealth, according to officials from both networks. The two health systems signed a letter of intent to form the alliance earlier this year.
A recent effort by PeaceHealth, a Catholic health provider, to find new partners and potential acquisitions around the Pacific Northwest has sparked controversy among health advocates who want to preserve patients’ access to abortion, birth control and doctor-prescribed lethal medication under Washington’s “Death with Dignity” law.
Those advocates worry that increasing collaboration between public hospitals and health providers run by religious organizations, particularly ones that do not offer such services due to faith-based objections, could hurt patients’ access to care.
In its agreement with PeaceHealth, UW Medicine, a public system, says it will not change any of the services it offers.
“This strategic collaboration will support UW Medicine’s mission to improve the health of the public by providing more seamless access to UW Medicine clinical services for many patients in the Northwest,” said Dr, Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine, in a statement. “We are committed to continue our full array of services including those related to reproductive health and end-of-life care. Our services will be available to a larger population of patients.”
In August, PeaceHealth announced additional new plans to gain partners.
The Skagit County Public Hospital District No. 1 and No. 2, along with the Snohomish County Public Hospital District No. 3 have elected to enter negotiations with PeaceHealth, paving the way for for Skagit Valley Hospital and Cascade Valley Hospital to potentially begin new alliances with the Vancouver, Wash.-based health provider.
The negotiations are expected to take six to nine months, according to PeaceHealth.
PeaceHealth operates St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, which Whatcom County’s only hospital and its largest employer.