Witz’ end 

It’s official: Spokane-based Providence Services—which oversees operations of St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center in Missoula, Benefis Healthcare in Great Falls and St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson—is merging with Seattle-based Providence Health System, effective Jan. 1, 2006.

The merger of two Catholic not-for-profit health-care systems comes on the heels of the news that Steve Witz, St. Pat’s president and CEO, is leaving for a new job in Indiana come January. Witz, who joined St. Pat’s in December 2002, is leaving to become the director of Purdue University’s new Regenstrief Center of Healthcare Engineering. He told the Independent the move has nothing to do with the impending merger, and that the timing is coincidental.

“My interest in this position is to be involved in trying to continue to address health service issues, but to do so in a little bit different fashion,” Witz said from his office last week.

According to Witz, the Regenstrief Center is a multi-disciplinary research center focused on improving healthcare quality and cost through the study of engineering, management and clinical and social sciences. Witz will remain at St. Pat’s until Jan. 11. He’ll start his new job on Purdue’s campus in West Lafayette, Ind., Jan. 17.

Witz said he first learned of the position in June from a friend who was involved with the development of the Regenstrief Center. Merger talks between the two health care systems began in earnest last spring, although there was no official word until September. It’s not yet clear who will appoint Witz’ replacement.

According to Sharon Fairchild, Providence Services’ vice president for marketing and system development, the process for hiring St. Pat’s new president is still being developed.

“The local board will have a critical role, but I don’t know the exact process yet,” Fairchild said on Tuesday. “This [Witz’ departure] is brand-new information. It’s a wonderful opportunity for Steve.”

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