Flat-lined: PeaceHealth, CHI shelve partnership talks

PeaceHealth, the parent organization of Peace Island Medical Center, has suspended joint venture negotiations with health care giant Catholic Health Initiatives of Colorado.

The joint press release issued April 3 stated that the two operators of health clinics and hospitals “were unable to develop an integrated model that would provide the desired benefits and serve the best interests of both organizations.”

In August 2012, CHI and PeaceHealth entered into a non-binding agreement "to create an innovative partnership that would allow both organizations to strengthen and extend their healing ministries," the two non-profit health care providers said at the time. In late 2012, PeaceHealth representatives told the San Juan County Hospital Commission that a definitive agreement with CHI could be reached early in 2013.

“CHI and PeaceHealth will remain actively engaged in exploring other opportunities to work together to strengthen their respective ministries in the Pacific Northwest,” the news release noted.

The potential agreement stirred fears among many islanders that CHI's adherence to health care directives issued by American Catholic bishops might result in restrictions on women's health care services and end-of-life care at the newly constructed Peace Island Medical Center, which opened in Friday Harbor in late 2012. Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union entered into the fray, suggesting that public money should not be used for religion-based hospitals under the Washington Constitution and state statutes.

Peace Health spokeswoman Jennie Ulum told the Vancouver Columbian that PeaceHealth “is still moving forward with our growth strategies, and we’re still open to partnership discussions” with others, including Catholic Health Initiatives. Ulum also told the Columbian the decision to suspend negotiations “had nothing to do at all” with the faith-based ethical policies of Catholic Health Initiative or PeaceHealth.

CHI operates more than 120 various health care facilities in 17 states, according to its website,, including seven Franciscan Health System hospitals in Washington and Oregon. Peace Health, headquartered in Vancouver, Wash., operates nine hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska that would have entered into an unspecified joint operating agreement with the seven CHI-run hospitals in Oregon and Washington.

CHI is the second-largest faith-based health system in the U.S., with more than 80,000 employees and $10.7 billion in annual revenues. Peace Health has about $2.3 billion in annual revenues.

— Steve Wehrly



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