Community Medical Center's board of directors voted to partner with Billings Clinic and Regional Care Hospital Partners of Brentwood, Tenn., according to two sources familiar with the deal. The Independent reported in early March that Community had narrowed its choices for a new partner to Billings Clinic, who it is already affiliated with, and St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula's other, larger hospital.
Billings Clinic includes three branch clinics as well as five primary or specialty-care clinics in Montana and Wyoming. Community partnered with Billings Clinic on its OBGYN oncology program beginning in 2009, and more recently collaborated on its electronic health records system.
KECI first reported the deal with Billings Clinic and posted a letter from CEO Steve Carlson to staff. The letter states the partnership will be "wholly owned by the Billings Clinic and Regional Care."
Members of the community had expressed some concern of a partnership with the faith-based St. Pat's regarding a local monopoly and women's care. Independent physicians, however, were among those advocating for a merger with St. Pat's to eliminate ongoing competition in the market.
Here's an update from this afternoon's press conference:
Community President and CEO Steve Carlson said that the deal is subject to approval by the Montana Attorney General and that the hospitals hope to complete the transaction — which would make Community a for-profit facility — by this fall. “The Attorney General will have the opportunity to solicit input," Carlson said. "The community will have the opportunity to give that input. We intend to have open town halls to discuss really our decision as we work through this."
The hospital will continue striving to increase efficiencies. But Carlson said he doesn't anticipate layoffs. “We have no plans at this point for cutting jobs,” he said.
Community has no intention of cutting services, either, Carlson said. "(It's) just the opposite, our agreements call for a commitment of multi years to existing services,” he said.
If the deal garners state approval, the Community Medical Center Board of Directors will be dissolved and replaced by a new advisory board.
The Independent will provide more information on the merger in next week's paper.
Additional reporting by Jessica Mayrer