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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Providence buys practice

Stevens County medical provider lacked funds to expand

The Spokesman-Review

Providence Health Care has strengthened its medical reach in Stevens County by buying the rural area’s largest physician practice.

The Colville-based Northeast Washington Medical Group, with 26 doctors, seven advanced practitioners and 118 employees, joined Providence last week. Financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed.

Providence owns the only two hospitals in Stevens County: Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville, which was rebuilt and reopened 2  1/2 years ago, and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chewelah.

The clinic purchase brings Providence to about 700 employees in Stevens County to complement another 6,000 or more in its hospitals, clinics, labs and adult care homes in Spokane County.

Ronald Rehn, who managed the Colville doctors group as chief executive officer, said the decision benefits the clinic’s 24,000 patients by leveraging the resources of Providence.

The clinic serves as a major provider in Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties, three of the poorest in Washington. With more than half of its patients enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, the clinic lacked the financial resources to make major capital improvements.

The doctors group, formed in 1979, had maintained close ties with Providence over the years, choosing collaboration rather than competition, Rehn said.

While hospitals and clinics face looming changes, federal health care reforms were not the single driver behind the purchase agreement, said Bob Campbell, who directs Providence’s operations in Stevens County.

Medical providers are expected to increase access to care, improve quality and lower the cost. It’s an iron triangle, he said, that has hospitals and clinics consolidating in search of successful business and medical care models.

“A lot of this boils down to risk management for everyone involved,” he said. “All of us have to get better about managing resources, costs and the needs of patients.”

Campbell said the growing presence of Providence in Stevens County is not meant to stifle competition or give patients fewer choices.

Competition for patients has been strong in Spokane, where Providence goes toe-to-toe with Rockwood Health System.

Both health care organizations have launched integrated systems designed to treat and capture the business of patients from medical check-ups to hospitalization. Providence and Rockwood have each purchased large family medicine and multispecialty clinics.