District OKs letter of intent with Overlake

SNOQUALMIE - Commissioners with King County Public Hospital District No. 4 on Monday voted in favor of signing a letter of intent with Overlake Hospital Association to provide management services for the district-run Snoqualmie Valley Hospital.

Following the letter of intent, which was expected to be reviewed Tuesday by the district's attorney, officials with the Bellevue-based health-care provider and the district will negotiate a formal agreement for management services.

Under the agreement, Snoqualmie Valley Hospital's current superintendent, Jeffrey Lyle, would become an employee of Overlake Hospital Medical Center and would continue to manage the hospital as superintendent. Snoqualmie Valley Hospital closed its doors in 1997 because of financial pressures and a lack of patients. It has, however, managed to keep its license, with the Department of Health granting a renewal Dec. 28.

Both commissioners and Overlake President and CEO Kenneth Graham said the deal made sense.

"I don't think we have to debate it," said commissioner Dick Jones before the vote. "I think that Overlake could be a wonderful partner for us."

"I think the potential is pretty exciting," said Fritz Ribary, another commissioner. "There's lots and lots of advantages to partnering with Overlake."

Most of those advantages would encompass administrative support for such things as billing. In addition, Graham said, Overlake might also be able to expand the services provided by Snoqualmie Valley Hospital. When it opens, the hospital on Ethan Wade Way in Snoqualmie will not offer emergency care or obstetric services.

Graham said with 2,000 employees and an operating budget of $200 million, forming a management agreement with Overlake would be beneficial to the hospital.

"We think we have significant resources and expertise to share with you," he said.

Previously, the hospital was expected to reopen in March, but that was called off because the hospital district and officials with Regional Hospital Inc., a non-profit arm of Northwest Care Management Inc. of Bainbridge Island, could not agree to a contract. It was one of several failed efforts over the past few years to reopen the hospital.

"We've been down the aisle so many times and never finished the ceremony," Lyle said, adding that he thinks the partnership with Overlake has a better chance of success.

"It's far and away the best offer the district has received since the hospital closed," he said.

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