Hospital board approves formation of negotiation team for affiliation process

Snoqualmie Valley Public Hospital District 4’s board of commissioners made progress toward a business affiliation with Astria Health at their Nov. 2, meeting. The board voted to form a small negotiation team to continue draft a letter of intent to Astria Health and request that Astria form a similar team to work with the hospital on the document.

On Oct. 26, the board voted to draft a letter of intent to exclusively continue its business discussions with Astria Health. The letter is not a contract, but is a step on the path to finalizing a deal.

Affiliation consultant Sarah Cave said that up to this point, the discussions have been limited because the district is a public organization and forming a deal with a private organization would require some discussions to be private.

“In a public process like this, the amount of data and information sharing that we have been able to do is somewhat limited because the other party in the proposed affiliation is not a public entity and not at the point quite yet to divulge a lot of information,” she said.

Cave discussed the letter of intent process and outlined the plan to form a negotiating team of board members, staff, and the consultants. The consultants suggested board president Dariel Norris and Finance Committee Chair David Speikers as the two board representatives to join the negotiation team.

The rationale for forming the team was, Cave said, to be able to classify discussions with Astria as “work product” meaning the content of discussions would not be public record.

“The primary reason for this is that you are a public hospital district and getting to the next level of strategic data sharing requires handling information in a sensitive manner, that goes for both parties,” she said. “The team would allow for the content shared and discussions to be considered work product. Essentially it would mean we would have some liberty to be able to freely discuss that information without all of it being subject to a public record request.”

She also said a small team would be more efficient in making changes and discussing the process and would be able to finish the drafting process in a few weeks. Once complete, the letter would come before the full board for approval, as well as Astria Health’s board.

Commissioner Emma Herron expressed concern that the other three board members wouldn’t get to have much of a say in the drafting process and wanted to know if it was possible to take their questions and concerns into consideration.

Only two board members could serve on the team; with more members, the team would have a quorum of the board members and thus be required to open their meetings to the public. However, Cave said there are various ways to gather feedback from the other board members on the drafting process and it would be important to get their input as well.

“Gathering input on what they think is most important to take into those meetings seems very appropriate,” she said.

Commissioner Gene Pollard worried that the public would not be able to comment on the letter of intent during the process, but was told that public comment would be allowed when the final draft comes to the board.

The motion to proceed with formation of the negotiation group and request Astria form their own to help work on the letter of intent was approved in a 4-1 vote with Pollard opposed.

Hospital CEO Tom Parker said that in the best-case scenario, the competed draft would be up for a vote by the board by their next meeting on Thursday, Dec. 14, but added there was no guarantees it would be ready by then.

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