Battle of hospitals looms in Monroe

The new battleground for health care competition could soon take place in Monroe.

Valley General Hospital has approved a business partnership with Redmond-based EvergreenHealth that will result in more primary care doctors coming to Monroe over the next year, said Michael Fraser, Valley’s interim chief executive.

The move follows an announcement in June by Providence Regional Medical Center Everett that it plans to open a $22 million clinic in Monroe next year, with 16 primary-care physicians, a walk-in clinic, a heart center and specialists.

The two-story clinic will be built on N. Kelsey Street, close to Lowe’s, and will replace the existing clinic at 14692 179th Ave. SE, near Valley General Hospital.

Valley’s three-member elected board unanimously approved the partnership with Evergreen on Wednesday. Evergreen’s board is scheduled to give final approval to the deal Tuesday.

“We have been critically short of primary care physicians in our community for quite some time,” Fraser said. “As a part of this relationship with EvergreenHealth, they’re committed to opening a primary care clinic here.”

More specific details of the business partnership are expected when a formal business agreement is completed in about 60 days.

Both Valley and Evergreen are taxpayer-supported hospitals. Valley will continue to have its three-member, publicly elected board.

Valley General, which has 268 employees, began looking for a business partner following a string of financial losses, totaling more than $3 million last year, due to the struggling economy and treating relatively large numbers of uninsured patients.

The agreement with Evergreen marks the end of its third round of negotiations to find a business partner, which began last year.

Initially, four organizations said they were interested: Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, University of Washington Medicine, and a joint proposal by Evergreen and Skagit Valley Hospital.

Talks with Providence Regional Medical Center Everett were abruptly halted in August as discussions on a business partnership between Providence’s parent organization and Seattle’s Swedish Health Services intensified and later were approved.

Valley then announced it was considering a joint venture with the for-profit, Tennessee-based Capella Healthcare.

That deal fell apart in April, due to concerns over Valley’s financial status.

EvergreenHealth’s main hospital is in Kirkland, with urgent care and primary care offices in Canyon Park, Duvall, Kenmore, Redmond, Sammamish and Woodinville.

Its hospital was established in 1972.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

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