Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane health care industry ramp-up is in high gear

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Despite the ongoing prospect of changes to the Affordable Care Act, health care administrators in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene continue to drive operations in growth mode.

Providence Health Care, the Inland Northwest’s largest provider network, has transitioned with its Renton, Wash.-based parent, Providence Health & Services, after it merged with Irvine, Calif.-based St. Joseph Health last year, says Elaine Couture, the chief executive of Providence Health Services.

The renamed Providence St. Joseph Health is now the third-largest nonprofit health care system in the country and has a presence in seven states. Spokane now serves as the regional head of the organization’s Washington/Montana region.

“What we’re seeing is that Eastern Washington is turning into a training and education hub,” Couture says. “We’re receiving national recognition and awards and continue pushing the envelope in the way of quality and care.”

Providence has partnered with Kirkland, Wash.-based Fairfax Behavioral Health to develop and operate a $37 million, 100-bed psychiatric hospital, which is expected to open in the fall of 2018 near Providence’s campus on the lower South Hill.

Couture says Providence will place a strong focus on the issue of mental health and how to best assist those suffering from mental health issues.

She says the organization continues to monitor developments related to the ACA and any potential implications the Trump administration’s proposed tax plan could have on health care.

“Our mission is to give a voice to those who may not be heard or have a chance to speak out. I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege,” Couture says.

In North Idaho, Kootenai Health CEO Jon Ness says officials in Coeur d’Alene operate with the same philosophy.

“As a community hospital, it is our goal to provide the highest quality of care to our patients, regardless of their ability to pay,” Ness says.

“While there are a lot of unknowns in health care, the best way for us to prepare for potential changes is to continue to operate responsibly and to meet the needs of our hospital, patients, and community,” he says.

In the way of projects, the second phase of Kootenai’s expansion will conclude next summer, says Derek Miller, Kootenai’s director of facility planning and property management.

“This phase includes a new south entrance, an ambulance bay, the emergency department, the surgical department, and support services,” he says.

When finished, Miller says Kootenai will have a total of 36 emergency department rooms and 11 operating rooms.

In addition, Kootenai Health will be working next year with Community Cancer Fund and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest to build a new on-site hospitality center.

“The new center will provide overnight accommodations at a low cost for adults, and free for pediatric patients and their families accessing services at Kootenai,” says Jeremy Evans, Kootenai Health’s executive vice president of hospital and regional operations.

“We are continuously growing to meet the needs of our patient population,” Evans says.

One-third of all patients seen at Kootenai Health are from outside Kootenai County, he says.

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