Providence-Swedish partnership gets green light from state

Two state agencies have signed off on the proposed partnership between two of Puget Sound’s largest health care organizations, Swedish Health Services and Providence Health &Services.

But the deal still needs approval from the Federal Trade Commission to move ahead.

The planned affiliation between Seattle-based Swedish Health Services and Renton-based Providence Health &Services is being reviewed for antitrust issues, to see if the merger could significantly dampen competition.

On Dec. 29, the state Attorney General’s office notified the two organizations that it would not take action to block the proposed affiliation, but reserved the right to ask questions or take actions as the alliance proceeds.

The state Department of Health, in a Dec. 19 letter to Providence and Swedish, said that it had decided not to require a review process, which can be lengthy, called a certificate of need. As one example, the state agency can launch these types of reviews when a new hospital is being proposed.

Although the letters from the two state agencies represent stepping stones on the way to final approval, neither Swedish nor Providence had much to say about it.

“We’re pleased with the progress of the regulatory review,” said Ed Boyle, a Swedish spokesman. “And as we’ve said, we believe this will be good for the community.”

Dave Brooks, chief executive of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, said in a statement that he, too, is pleased with the process. The regulatory review is proceeding as expected, he added.

The Everett hospital is the largest in a proposed new division of Providence Health &Services, which would also include Swedish Health &Services.

The proposed partnerships was announced in October. At the time, representatives of the two organizations said they thought that if the partnership were approved, it would save money and provide better service for patients.

The proposal calls for the parent organization of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and Seattle-based Swedish Health Service to form a new nonprofit health care system.

Both Swedish and Providence would keep their names, but share resources.

In Snohomish County, Providence not only operates the county’s largest hospital, located in Everett, but a string of health care clinics and a hospice service.

Swedish, meanwhile, took over operation in 2010 of the former Stevens Hospital in Edmonds, now called Swedish/Edmonds. It also operates a satellite emergency room near the 128th Street exit of I-5 south of Everett.

Overall, Swedish operates five hospitals and more than 70 primary care clinics, and it has a workforce of 11,000 people.

Providence Health &Services, based in Renton, has 27 hospital and other medical facilities in five Western states stretching from Alaska to California, employing nearly 53,000 people.

It was founded by the Catholic Sisters of Providence.

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

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