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Providence to add 250 billing jobs in Spokane

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 6, 2011, 6:27 p.m.

Providence Health & Services is moving 250 medical billing jobs to Spokane from its headquarters in Renton.

It’s the largest influx of new jobs by a single employer in recent memory, said Rich Hadley, chief executive of Greater Spokane Incorporated. He said the move would add a $30 million economic punch to the region.

“It’s a gift when we really need it,” Hadley said, providing a boost in jobs at time when unemployment locally sits at 8.3 percent.

The jobs to be filled range from clerks to executives, Providence said.

Mike Wilson, interim chief executive of Providence Health Care, which operates Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, said the move is expected to begin within 60 days. Providence is searching for office space.

The jobs are responsible for insurance billing, medical record management, collections, patient scheduling referrals and overseeing Providence’s charity care program.

“Selecting Spokane as a business hub for a five-state system of health care providers is a huge investment by Providence, and will provide a great economic benefit to our community,” Wilson Tuesday afternoon.

Providence is one of the largest health care organizations in the West, operating a network of Catholic hospitals, clinics, adult care homes, laboratory services and other medical business in Washington, Oregon, California, Montana and Alaska.

The organization’s influence in the Pacific Northwest can be traced to 1856, when Mother Joseph arrived in what was then the Oregon Territory.

Having the organization expand its Spokane presence is a natural fit, Wilson said.

Within health care, finance and information technology jobs are growing in numbers, complexity and pay.

The collection of college health care programs ensures that Spokane has a pool of qualified workers and opportunities for further educational training.

“That’s a big part of why the Providence board looked to Spokane,” said Providence spokeswoman Sharon Fairchild.

Providence is undergoing changes in Spokane. Construction crews are at work on an $18.6 million expansion of Sacred Heart’s emergency room.

Executives have also expanded the organization’s roster of employed physicians and specialists.

Meanwhile, the hospital has extended voluntary layoff offers to its 8,500 regional employees. Providence is attempting to trim staff and other expenses to offset what it anticipates will be a $61 million budget shortfall for next year.

It’s all part of a balancing act for the region’s largest private employer as it attempts to search out savings and brace for changes brought about by federal health care reforms and reduced state spending on patient care.

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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.