May 8, 2013

Providence, Cancer Care Northwest partner to avoid competition

The Spokesman-Review
 

Three of the region’s cancer treatment providers are forming an alliance to avoid expensive competition and coordinate medical care.

The proposal shelves plans by Providence Health Care to build a new cancer clinic that would have required hiring oncologists and buying expensive equipment to compete with expansion plans of Cancer Care Northwest, the region’s leading cancer practice.

Instead, Providence and CCNW will collaborate – along with Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene – to invest time, money and expertise to expand research, build a better treatment network and trim patient costs, said Cathy Simchuk, interim CEO of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital.

One aim is to keep more cancer patients close to home.

The region’s hospitals and cancer clinics have complained for years that too many patients seek cancer treatment at clinics in Seattle or elsewhere when similar care is offered in Spokane. One example is CCNW’s bone marrow transplants that help patients beat forms of leukemia.

While the alliance won’t be formalized until late this year, the memorandum of understanding announced Tuesday calls on each of the three providers to appoint two members to a board of directors.

Dr. Wayne Lamoreaux, immediate past president of CCNW, said joining an alliance ensured that the clinic would remain independent while helping it tap the clout of and patient referral base of the region’s largest hospital system and network of family doctors.

“That was an important detail,” he said.

And Providence secures a partnership with the region’s largest oncology practice, which dominates outpatient cancer treatment.

The deal would offer Kootenai Health a major expansion of its own cancer care offerings by enlisting CCNW specialists to see patients at offices in Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene, said Jon Ness, Kootenai Health’s CEO.

Kootenai Health and Providence have had a partnership to treat Idaho cancer patients for 26 years.

No one within the organizations would discuss specific financial requirements and benefits of the alliance as treatment costs soar.

Lamoreaux said the alliance would not force patients to be treated at a specific hospital.

CCNW remains one of the region’s last large independent physician practices. Most Spokane doctors now work for either Providence or competitor Rockwood Health System.

All three alliance participants, however, said having a network of cancer providers would ensure smooth transitions if patients went from one doctor to another.

They also agreed that an alliance would assist medical research and treatment trials, help recruit more cancer specialists to the Inland Northwest and expand education and prevention programs at the heart of federal health reform efforts.

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