Trios may partner with 2 larger health systems

Herald file

Trios Health may form a partnership with a pair of health care systems that have significant footprints in the Northwest — a move aimed at helping the struggling Kennewick public hospital district return to financial stability and long-term viability.

Trios is exploring a relationship with RCCH HealthCare Partners and UW Medicine, Trios officials announced Tuesday.

The exact structure of the relationship — whether it takes the form of affiliation, acquisition, merger or something else — hasn’t been determined. A timeline also isn’t yet known.

RCCH already is a familiar name in local health care circles. It has an agreement in place to acquire Lourdes Health in Pasco, although that arrangement still is working its way through the state regulatory process.

That deal has been in the works for a couple of years; Lourdes’ CEO said he expects the transition to RCCH to be complete in the first or second quarter of next year.

The acquisition of Lourdes is separate from RCCH’s discussions with Trios and UW Medicine.

Trios officials say partnering with a larger health care system will help its financial position and its clinical offerings.

“Despite the fact that healthcare is a very challenging industry, we have been clear all along that our goal is to be here to serve the Tri-Cities. We are pleased to be in discussions with (RCCH and UW Medicine), which see the value in what we offer and understand the tremendous opportunities within and for this community,” said Marv Kinney, Trios board president, in a statement.

The focus right now “is working to assure, with RCCH and UW Medicine, continued access to our quality care for the community,” he said.

The Kennewick Public Hospital District does business as Trios Health. It has two hospitals and a network of clinics and services, and it employs about 1,100 people.

Trios has been struggling financially for some time.

Last year, the Trios board hired consultants Quorum Health Resources to conduct an assessment and put together an improvement plan. The district is implementing the plan, which has included workforce restructuring and exploring Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

The restructuring happened in the spring through attrition, scheduling changes and some layoffs. The Chapter 9 filing came at the end of June.

The plan also calls for exploring affiliation or other partnerships.

Trios has been in talks with RCCH and UW Medicine for several months.

Officials decided to announce the talks now, even though a deal isn’t done, as part of Trios’ commitment to transparency, the district said.

“As a public hospital district, Trios Health has been under the microscope and the community is looking for information — if not, assurance — that Trios Health is going to be able to care (for) the community’s healthcare needs alongside the other hospitals into the future. Sharing this information demonstrates to our community that we will keep its citizens informed as we continue to work through our financial challenges. We hope that our community will continue to support us as we continue these discussions,” Trios wrote in a frequently asked questions sheet.

Trios officials said that, although they can’t say definitively until a partnership structure is fleshed out, they don’t anticipate a change in the district’s tax assessment.

The same goes for the district’s mission to “serve all with full-service, public (non-faith-based) services,” Trios officials said.

RCCH has headquarters in Brentwood, Tenn., and runs 16 regional health systems in a dozen states, including Washington.

The Seattle-based UW Medicine includes Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Valley Medical Center, UW Neighborhood Clinics, UW Physicians, the UW School of Medicine and Airlift Northwest.

RCCH and UW already have a relationship with one another, partnering in Capital Medical Center in Olympia.

And UW has a relationship with Trios; the two systems agreed to a strategic collaboration in 2015. The collaboration has meant, among other things, a more seamless process when Trios patients transfer to UW facilities and greater collaboration with and access to UW Medicine personnel.

In a statement, RCCH officials said, “We are very excited to be working jointly with UW Medicine to assist Trios Health. We are privileged to have an existing relationship with UW Medicine and look forward to expanding that relationship to include Trios Health. Together we are confident we could improve the quality of health care to the local community. We look forward to continued discussions.”

A UW Medicine spokeswoman couldn’t be reached about the discussions.

Trios and RCCH officials are working on a debt restructuring plan as part of Trios’ Chapter 9 process. Until that’s done, a partnership can’t be completed, Kinney said in his statement.

“What’s important for people to know is that we are making great strides to return Trios back to financial health and these organizations (RCCH and UW Medicine) have indicated they want to be part of our comeback,” he said.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @SaraTCHerald