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Rockwood doctors OK sale

Clinic will form close ties with Deaconess over next few years

Rockwood Clinic doctors voted Wednesday to sell their medical practice to Community Health Systems Inc. and form a close partnership with Deaconess Medical Center.

The transaction will be finalized in the next several weeks. Financial terms have not been disclosed.

The Wednesday vote by Rockwood’s 77 physician owners begins a broad reorganization of the region’s largest specialty clinic.

Dr. Kevin Sweeny, the chief executive of Rockwood, said joining Deaconess as part of an integrated health care delivery system will strengthen both institutions and help ensure Spokane retains strong hospitals and innovative patient care.

Sweeny said the vote in favor of selling to CHS was a strong majority – more than the two-thirds needed. Physicians were impressed during their examination of CHS facilities and practices, he added.

“What cinched it, I think, was how our visions of patient care came together in this integrated health system model,” Sweeny said. “It became obvious we wanted to go the same direction.”

While the transaction struck a nerve initially with Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, leaders of the hospital have since taken a conciliatory tone.

“Health care in our community is rooted in collaboration and a shared vision for excellent patient care,” said Elaine Couture, chief operating officer for Sacred Heart and Holy Family hospitals.

She said Providence hospitals continue to value Rockwood physicians and look forward to keeping the many projects and relationships intact.

Rockwood leaders have said they intend to build a successful and seamless relationship with Deaconess that would make it the hospital of choice for most Rockwood patients within five years.

Rockwood treats 160,000 patients each year; 90 percent of its patients in need of hospitalization go to Sacred Heart and Holy Family. Most of the rest go to Deaconess.

There will be few noticeable changes for Rockwood patients. Signs won’t change. Neither will physicians or treatments.

Sweeny said most of the initial work will be administrative, including changing Rockwood into a nonprofit, taxpaying professional corporation.

In an earlier meeting, Dr. Craig Whiting of Rockwood said the clinic viewed CHS as a sure way to expand the clinic’s reach throughout the region and other states.

Rockwood, Deaconess and Valley Hospital and Medical Center will begin working together, he said, on the integrated care system that will include inpatient hospital care, primary care, outpatient surgery, physical therapy, medical imaging, radiation therapy and other medical specialties.

“I think this is one of those pivotal developments about health care in Spokane,” Sweeny said. “This is a great opportunity for Rockwood and Community Health to develop a much stronger model of patient care and we view this as positive for our community.”

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