Editorial: A true ‘win-win’
Though the phrase is thrown around quite a bit, it’s rare to encounter a true “win-win” scenario. But, in our opinion, that’s exactly what we’re seeing in Memorial Regional Health’s new affiliation with SCL Health St. Mary’s.
The affiliation — which formalizes a longstanding arrangement between the two health systems — was unanimously approved by the MRH Board of Trustees during a Sept. 20 meeting and announced to the community during a news conference the following day.
“SCL Health is a faith-based, nonprofit health care organization dedicated to improving the health of the people and communities we serve, especially those who are poor and vulnerable,” according to SCL Health’s website. “Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, our $2.6 billion health network provides comprehensive, coordinated care through 10 hospitals, more than 100 physician clinics, and home health, hospice, mental health and safety-net services primarily in Colorado and Montana.”
We can understand how some residents might view this affiliation with a measure of trepidation, particularly given the growing trend of small community hospitals being absorbed by large, corporate health systems.
But that’s not what’s happening here.
According to MRH CEO Andy Daniels, under the agreement, Memorial Regional Health will retain its autonomy — both financially and in terms of administrative decisions — while positioning itself to take full advantage of the resources and backing afforded by the much larger SCL Health. This should translate to several benefits for MRH, and, by extension, its patients.
First, it will save money.
The affiliation allows MRH to replace its “disconnected computer systems” with Epic — a Wisconsin-based patient records system — through SCL Health’s investment in the system. This, according to Daniels, means MRH will not only gain access to a more efficient and reliable system of record keeping, but will also realize savings in the neighborhood of $5 million over the next five years.
Further, the affiliation will allow MRH to leverage the purchasing power of SCL Health, saving still more money.
All this should translate to lower prices for services.
Second, it will enhance and expand the care available in Moffat County.
We are classified as a “frontier community,” which means patients must sometimes travel long distances to access the sort of specialized care they may need. And while the affiliation with SCL Health will likely not completely eliminate this roadblock, greater access to telehealth and other technologies, as well as a larger pool of providers, should give local patients the opportunity to receive many of these services right here at home.
Third, the affiliation may serve to insulate our local health system from being absorbed by a larger entity. In fact, Daniels said, the affiliation will actually better position MRH to retain its autonomy into the future.
“Let me assure you that we are not for sale,” Daniels told a crowd during the news conference announcing the affiliation. “Decisions for what we do and where we go as an organization are still ours; our board of trustees is still governing this institution, and we all remain employees of MRH. … I firmly believe that this affiliation will allow us to remain independent for a good long time,” he said. “… Having a much larger partner behind us to give us some advice and resources when we need it will allow us to be your independent health care system for a long time to come.”
Finally, the affiliation should better position Moffat County to attract more high-quality health care providers to our community.
In short, this affiliation should lower costs, make MRH stronger, and enable the offering of many services that heretofore have not been available.
“Here is the bottom line message,” Daniels said. “We are stronger together …”
We couldn’t agree more, and we look forward to seeing the coming benefits to our community and its residents.