Harrison Medical Center considering merger with larger healthcare system

BREMERTON -- Harrison Medical Center’s Board of Directors and executive team announced Jan. 17 that it has begun the process of shopping for a partnership with a larger regional healthcare system.

The decision was not an easy one, said Scott Bosch, president and CEO. The board deliberated on the benefits of staying independent and becoming affiliated for more than three years.

The state’s budget crisis and nationwide reductions in federal Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates contributed to the decision to move forward with a possible merger. “There just isn’t enough money anymore to pay for the way we’ve always done things,” Bosch said. “We asked should we confront the future standing alone or with someone bigger than ourselves?”

Harrison will put out a request for proposal from interested candidates by the end of the month. Healthcare systems will respond with an outline of what they can offer Harrison if affiliated and terms of the merger by mid-March.

Bosch explained that the board will not release names of candidates being considered, but said that they are “casting a net very wide.” If no candidates offer an attractive bid, Harrison could choose to maintain an independent position, Bosch said. He also said that the medical center is sound financially and maintains a strong market share. The board’s decision to strike now is to “do it when strong, when you have bargaining power.”

A merger would ensure that Harrison can maintain certain programs like oncology services, the new orthopedic building opening in Silverdale and open-heart surgery all within the region so patients do not have to drive to Tacoma or Seattle to get care. Bosch said that it is too early to know how a merger would affect Harrison employees.

“It is contingent upon the system we affiliate with and what the structure might be. That’s too soon to tell,” Bosch said.

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