Tuesday, January 15, 2002
DALLAS -- Polk County's only hospital will soon become part of Salem Hospital.
Pacific Health Horizons, Salem Hospital's parent organization, is in the process of buying Valley Community Hospital.
Valley Community will continue to offer core services, said board Chair Lane Shetterly. That means providing emergency care, outpatient surgery, rehabilitation, laboratory and radiology services.
A six-bed will likely be kept to receive and stabilize arriving patients.
Valley's Interim Director Joyce Evans said the hospital will remain at its current staffing level, the equivalent of around 100 full-time employees.
Services will also remain at the current level, Shetterly said, after significant recent cuts.
Valley Community Hospital recently eliminated most inpatient services, including child deliveries.
Board Vice Chair Amy Lowery said she's happy to keep a hospital in the community. "I'm just thrilled there will continue to be a health care presence here."
Her family was instrumental in bringing a hospital to Polk County 90 years ago and has been involved ever since.
Valley Community Hospital has been tied to Salem Hospital since 1994, when Salem loaned Valley the money to open as a nonprofit hospital. In 1999, Salem Hospital bought Valley's building and equipment.
The partnership makes sense, said Salem Hospital president Dennis Noonan. The two hospitals have had a "complementary relationship," Noonan said.
Half of Polk County's patients go to Salem Hospital, he said, and one quarter go to Valley.
Valley Community recently earned a state "Critical Access Hospital" designation from the Office of Rural Health.
That's important, Shetterly said. As a critical access hospital, Valley's successor will receive a higher reimbursement rate for Medicare.
Currently, 60 to 70 percent of the hospital's patients use Medicare.
Many details still have to be worked out, said Salem Hospital president Dennis Noonan. No price has been established for the sale, which should be completed in 45 to 60 days.
Even the name of the facility is up in the air.
The fate of other Valley Community Hospital property also remains unclear.
Valley hospital facilities will get a $1.5 million dollar upgrade, Noonan said. That's a ball-park figure, he stressed. "We'll have to see as we go."
Pacific Health Horizons and Salem Hospital have the same board of trustees, said chair Katherine Keene. While that board will oversee Valley's new incarnation, it will likely become more representative.
"We understand the need for this community to have input in the governance of the new entity," Keene said.
Shetterly looked to the hospital's future optimistically. "We've been hoping we could put this together for several months," he said, while it became harder to serve the county as an independent hospital.
"We have a good core of people still with us."