On April 3 it was announced that Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH) and Providence St. Mary Medical Center, both located in Walla Walla, Washington, will unite under what is being called a “transfer of membership.”
In a joint press release issued by Providence Health and Adventist Health, Joyce Newmyer, President of Adventist Health Pacific Northwest Region and Board Chair of Walla Walla General Hospital said, “While the landscape of healthcare is being reshaped, it is important to continually meet the needs of the local community.”
This local community of southeastern Washington metro area numbers approximately 45,000 and has had two hospitals – WWGH and St. Mary – for over a century. Both will continue to serve the community under “one seamless, coordinated system of care.” Elaine Couture, chief executive officer for Providence Health & Services in Eastern Washington, added, “The demand for health care in this community doesn’t change as a result of this. It is Providence’s goal to keep doctors, advanced practitioners and other caregivers in the community.”
There may be some staff reductions Couture goes on to state, but “Providence’s intent is to employ a significant number of Adventist Health employees.” There are currently 440 WWGH employees, including physicians. St. Mary currently employs 1,153 people. Many vacant positions are being purposefully left open to help with the melding of the two hospitals. Newmyer and Couture also cited the national trend of health care providers reaching retirement age, which is creating positions all across the country, including Walla Walla.
Newmyer stressed that this transfer of control, slated for July, is “not a sale” but a “form of affiliation called a sponsorship or membership substitution.” Adventist Health will transfer membership control of Walla Walla General Hospital, including Adventist Health Medical Group and Home Care Services in Walla Walla, to Providence.
Providence, in turn, will set up a $14 million restricted fund, to be controlled by Adventist Health. The fund is earmarked for community health care needs and will be distributed over 24 years.
Newmyer described the creation of this fund as a way to “build on our Adventist Health legacy of wellness and prevention,” while moving away from the traditional brick-and-mortar-based model to more innovative initiatives. “It will be a fresh expression of our mission that provides a way for us to live out our commitment to serve the people of this community. And while the details of how this will look are still in the formative stage, the possibilities for innovation are quite promising for the community.”
Couture and Newmyer both stressed the importance of honoring the long histories St. Mary and WWGH have in the Walla Walla community.
“We want to always honor both heritages,” Couture stated. “We do have great respect for each other’s mission. This is not about Adventist or Catholic, but about Jesus’ healing.”
Newmyer added, “We serve the same God and follow the same purpose.”
WATCH: Joyce Newmyer and Elaine Couture Announce “New Chapter” for Healthcare in Walla Walla
Read the entire press release here.
Alisa Williams is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
Image Credit: AdventistHealth.org
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