Hospital to pursue affiliation; board approves contract with consultants to develop affiliation proposal

The next step in Snoqualmie Valley Hospital’s plan to pursue affiliation with another hospital or health care provider has been made.

At their regular meeting on Thursday, March 9, the Public Hospital District 4 Board of Commissioners approved a $95,000 contract with consultants Huebner Advisory, LLC, and Sarah Cave Consulting to work with the board and hospital administration in the affiliation process.

The contract details a five-phase plan that the consultants will begin work on.

Phases one through four will consist of working with the board and administration to determine goals and select an affiliation model, designing a request for proposals (RFP) and identifying potential partners, and conducting the RFP process and working with the board to select a partner.

Phase five includes consulting with legal counsel, the development of an implementation plan and timeline, and other steps needed to finalize an affiliation.

The contract states that the costs for phases one through four are not to exceed $70,000 and phase five will not exceed $25,000.

The board approved the contract with Huebner Advisory and Sarah Cave Consulting in a 4-1 vote; Commissioner Gene Pollard cast the opposing vote.

While the board voted in favor of the contract, both Commissioners David Speikers and Dariel Norris said that they would be scrutinizing the consultant’s work very carefully to make sure the hospital is getting what it pays for.

“I’m going to be in favor of this, but I’m going to expect a lot and I’m going to hold them to the fire if I see they are not doing what they should be doing,” Speikers said.

Pollard appreciated some aspects of the contract, but not enough to approve it.

“One good thing is under the provisions of the contract, there is sort of a no-fault divorce available…with notice, where we can terminate the contract if the board believes they are not living up to our expectations,” he said. “I feel there are many issues that have not been resolved in this contract and I think we have learned from other experiences that we have to be very, very careful to make sure that the district is protected. I’m not convinced that the district is fully protected at this time. So I would be voting no, but that won’t prevent the passage of the resolution, if that is the desired majority of the board.”

Huebner Advisory and Sarah Cave Consulting were chosen at as the consultants to pursue a contract with at a special meeting on Feb. 1, when the consultants, along with ECG Consulting, presented a proposal to the board.

The hospital’s search for a consulting firm that specialized in health care mergers and affiliations was motivated by the desire to secure financial stability and to improve the heath care services they offer. In February, Snoqualmie Valley Hospital CEO Tom Parker told the Record that by partnering with a larger health system, the hospital would receive support for its services while the hospital’s debt would be absorbed in the affiliation or merger.

At the regular meeting, Parker said the final contract was slightly different from the proposal; two services were moved to earlier phases to speed up the process.

“I really wanted things to move faster than in the proposal, so the first one is I asked them to move up to phase one, the identification of a preferred affiliation model, that will be worked with this group to make sure we are all on the same page with the model for affiliation,” he said. “The second one is getting the RFP done sooner, I asked them to get that into phase two.”

The resolution and the attached contract are available by clicking the Board Meeting Packets link on the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital’s public board meetings page at http:snoqualmiehospital.org/about/agendas-minutes.

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