With a $40 million donation from Providence Health Care, a local foundation that targets health issues will become the largest philanthropic organization in Eastern Washington.
The cash infusion from Providence doubles the endowment of the Empire Health Foundation to about $86 million.
In exchange, the foundation is relinquishing its three seats on the board of Inland Northwest Health Services. That Spokane-based organization runs Northwest Medstar air ambulance service, St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute and an electronic medical records business with clinic and hospital clients around the country.
Providence will now be the sole controlling member of INHS – 19 years after Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Deaconess Medical Center joined to create the nonprofit in an effort to hold down costs and broaden medical services in the region.
Providence CEO Elaine Couture said INHS will be allowed to retain much of the autonomy that has fed its entrepreneurial streak, including the development of a medical records apparatus that has earned accolades and far-flung business deals.
While INHS chief executive Tom Fritz will report to Couture, the rest of the employees should not notice big changes, he said.
“We continue to be very successful,” Fritz said of INHS.
The deal will give Empire more money to fund specific projects – including several tied to public health such as obesity prevention and curbing cases of childhood trauma that have been shown to linger into adulthood and lead to medical problems.
Empire CEO Antony Chiang said he intends to conduct a community assessment next year to determine how best to invest in projects that help many people and where results can be measured.
Other than the relinquishing of the foundation’s seats on the INHS board, the Providence money comes with no strings, he added.
Providence won’t even appoint a member to the foundation’s board, Couture said.
In some ways the $40 million brings collaboration between Providence and Deaconess full circle, said Garman Lutz, an Empire Health Foundation board member and former executive of Deaconess.
The foundation was created to capture the proceeds of the nonprofit Deaconess sale to Community Health Systems five years ago. Merging that money with the Providence infusion will be used to “turn the dial” on medical problems that have vexed health care leaders for years.
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