County’s last independent hospital now part of Skagit Regional Health

ARLINGTON — Cascade Valley Hospital, Snohomish County’s last remaining independent hospital, is now part of Skagit Regional Health.

The two public hospitals announced plans last year for the Mount Vernon-based health care organization to lease and operate the Arlington hospital. The change took effect Tuesday.

“We’ve had a long relationship with Skagit,” said Clark Jones, Cascade’s chief executive.

Skagit Regional Health has run Cascade’s outpatient chemotherapy program for a number of years and the two organizations collaborated on construction of an outpatient center at Smokey Point that opened in 2011.

The business agreement between the Arlington and Mount Vernon hospitals is part of a national trend of consolidation of the health care industry.

In Snohomish County, it began in 1994 with the merger of Everett’s two hospitals — and cross-town rivals — Providence Hospital and General Hospital Medical Center.

A wave of consolidation among the county’s three independent, tax-supported hospitals began in 2010, when Seattle’s Swedish Health Services took over management of the former Stevens Hospital in Edmonds.

In 2012, two of Western Washington’s largest health care organizations completed a business partnership — Swedish Health Services and Providence Health &Services, which operates hospitals in five Western states, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Last year, the former Valley General Hospital in Monroe approved a business agreement to join Kirkland-based EvergreenHealth. The hospital is now called EvergreenHealth Monroe.

Cascade Valley first began seeking a business partner in 2013. It’s difficult for small independent hospitals to remain financially stable in suburban or urban areas with larger, competing health care organizations.

The Arlington hospital initially announced plans to join up with PeaceHealth, a Catholic health care organization with hospitals in Alaska, Oregon and Washington. But those plans collapsed in 2014.

Talks then began with Skagit Regional Health. A proposal calling for the Mount Vernon health care organization to manage Cascade Valley Hospital was endorsed by the Arlington hospital’s board in November.

Having the Mount Vernon-based health care organization operate the hospital will allow Cascade Valley to expand services “and do things we would not have been capable of doing on our own,” Jones said.

There are no immediate plans for big changes at the hospital. “It will be business as usual,” he said.

Cascade’s tax-supported public hospital district will remain in place but all hospital assets, including equipment and its medical records system, will become part of Skagit Regional Health.

Skagit Regional Health includes Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon and Skagit Regional Clinics, a group of 11 medical clinics in Island, Skagit and north Snohomish counties.

Cascade Valley Hospital, a 48-bed hospital, also operates five medical clinics and a surgery center. The hospital’s history dates back to 1909, when it was known as Arlington General Hospital.

Tuesday not only marked the transition in management at the Arlington hospital, it also was the last day of work for Jones, 69, who has worked at the hospital for 28 years. Jones said it had always been his plan to retire on the day of the management change at the hospital.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” Jones said. “It’s a great hospital and I’m going to miss the employees and medical staff.”

The Arlington hospital has 430 full- and part-time employees.

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

You’re invited

A public event to mark the business agreement that has Skagit Regional Health taking over management of Cascade Valley Hospital and Clinics is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at Cascade Valley Hospital, 330 S. Stillaguamish Ave., Arlington.

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