The potential new owner of Lourdes and Trios has big plans. At least $18M worth

Lourdes Health in Pasco.
Lourdes Health in Pasco. Herald file

The potential new owner of Lourdes Health in Pasco wants to inject $18 million into the health system, according to its spokesman.

It’s one of the several big moves RCCH HealthCare Partners could start making in the Tri-Cities as soon as this summer.

That’s around the same time Trios Health could exit bankruptcy and start a process to change hands — to RCCH.

The Tennessee-based company is in talks to buy Trios and already is in the process of buying Lourdes.

For Trios, the partnership with RCCH would be a good thing, said Scott Landrum, interim CEO.

The same goes for Lourdes, said its CEO, John Serle.

Lourdes changing hands

The sale of Lourdes has been in the works for some time.

The state Certificate of Need review — which is required for big hospital moves, such as acquisitions, and focuses on things like financial feasibility — is under way.

So is a separate review dealing with the conversion of the hospital from nonprofit to for-profit status.

Two public hearings on the conversion are set March 19 — from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Richland City Hall and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at the Police Community Services Building in Pasco.

Written comment on the Certificate of Need application can be sent to the state Department of Health’s Certificate of Need program. The deadline is March 19.

Lourdes, based in Pasco, already is part of a larger health care organization. Its parent company, Ascension, is the biggest nonprofit health system in the country and the largest Catholic health system in the world.

But Ascension has shifted to a new model, focused on larger metro areas — leaving Lourdes in a need of a new partner.

This is the kind of community that we feel comfortable in, and most importantly, (where) we feel like we can be impactful.

Jeff Atwood, RCCH spokesman

Jeff Atwood, RCCH spokesman, said the Pasco system is a good fit for his company, which focuses on regional health care.

“A market like Pasco is exactly what we do. We’re not in big urban markets and we’re not in little teeny, tiny rural towns,” he said.

Because the company’s facilities have so much in common, they’re able to share efficiencies, lessons and best practices, he said.

“For example, this week we’ve got all our CEOs together from the different communities, (talking about) how do we learn from one another? If we’re doing ‘x’ well in Montana, is that something we can learn from in Alabama?” Atwood said. “We try to be an organization that shares information, best practices, expertise. We find that because we’re so specifically focused on regional markets, it’s been successful.”

Service cuts aren’t expected at Lourdes with the transition. RCCH plans to invest $18 million there during the next five years.

The institution also will remain Catholic, Atwood said.

The institution also will remain Catholic, Atwood said.

It’ll have an all-local board, likely made up of a mix of physicians and community members. That’s RCCH’s model in its facilities across the country, Atwood said.

Serle said all employees will be asked to stay on.

Lourdes has about 900 workers throughout its network, which includes a Pasco hospital and Richland counseling center.

“Ascension, our parent organization, has been working with us in the transition,” Serle said. “It’s totally in harmony with what (Ascension) want to see happen with our ministry here in the Tri-Cities. They have facilitated this transfer in an effort to see us thrive in this community into the future.”

The Certificate of Need and conversion decisions are expected in late June or July.

Bankruptcy end in sight for Trios

Trios Health, based in Kennewick, hopes to emerge from bankruptcy protection by about mid-year with a deal for purchase by RCCH, Trios officials said.

The Certificate of Need and conversion reviews then could get under way. Trios officials are hopeful those processes could be expedited.

It’s been a difficult few years for the public health system, which has about 1,200 employees and includes two hospitals and a network of clinics and services.

trios pic
Trio Health in Kennewick. Herald file

Tight finances led to layoffs, service cuts and Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing. The financial position also prompted Trios leaders to look for a partner, like RCCH.

It’s a step more and more community hospitals are taking nationwide.

Trios has had flux in top leadership recently, but Landrum is expected to stay on as interim CEO to shepherd Trios through the rest of bankruptcy.

He’s an employee of Quorum Health Resources, the consulting firm Trios hired to help navigate the difficult financial waters.

Landrum is based in Texas, although he’s worked in hospitals around the country in his years with Quorum. He said he’s impressed with Trios’ staff.

“There are an awful lot of very fine people here. The people here are very loyal, very talented people. I’m sure RCCH is very happy about that, too,” he said.

Partnership with UW Medicine

Atwood, from RCCH, said he couldn’t talk about a potential Trios deal at this point.

He did point to a newly-announced partnership between RCCH and UW Medicine in Seattle.

The organizations have launched a private-public partnership to run community hospitals in Washington, Alaska and Idaho.

“The partnership will take the form of a limited liability company that will own and operate community hospitals or other healthcare entities. RCCH will operate and manage these facilities and UW Medicine will provide clinical and quality expertise,” a news release said.

Atwood said his company looks forward to coming to the Tri-Cities.

“This is the kind of community that we feel comfortable in, and most importantly, (where) we feel like we can be impactful,” he said.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @SaraTCHerald