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GUEST OPINION: The truth about affiliations and the Affordable Care Act

The proposal and passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has generated controversy and spurred debate between parties from both sides of the aisle. But debate and controversy weren’t the only things that the act produced. The Affordable Care Act put added pressure on hospitals who were already struggling from the recession. Hospitals are now being asked to do more with less and serve the needs of more patients without additional resources.

The future of healthcare is uncertain. Nobody knows the effects of the Affordable Care Act once it is fully implemented. But one thing is for certain — people will still get sick and there will still be a need for health services. Hospitals will continue to strive to meet the needs of the communities they serve. However, some hospitals like Summit Pacific Medical Center may not be able to do it alone.

Recently, there has been a trend of small, rural hospitals seeking to partner and affiliate with larger health systems. This trend is happening nationwide and the Northwest is certainly not an exception. Washington has seen its fair share of activity lately. Forks General Hospital, Jefferson Healthcare, and Olympic Medical Center affiliated with Swedish Medical Center; Grays Harbor Community Hospital recently joined the MultiCare network; United General Hospital joined PeaceHealth’s regional network of care; and Island Hospital, Skagit Regional Health, and Cascade Valley Hospital are expected to announce their selection of a strategic partner this summer. These hospitals realized that in order to increase access, reduce costs, and improve the quality of healthcare for their patients in the changing healthcare environment they would need help from a larger player.

Summit Pacific Medical Center is not immune to the challenges that come with the Affordable Care Act and changes in healthcare.

The hospital has come a long way since the days when it was struggling just to keep its doors open. It is now a state of the art medical facility offering an array of services by the most qualified and compassionate staff. But no matter how far Summit Pacific Medical Center comes, it will never be outside the reach of government legislation. As a result, Summit Pacific Medical Center will continue to look to the future and do what is necessary to serve the healthcare needs of the residents of the Grays Harbor County Public Hospital District No. 1.

This means identifying needs and exploring options to reach out and affiliate with other systems that can support Summit Pacific. An affiliation would help alleviate some of the effects of the Affordable Care Act and provide Summit Pacific Medical Center with the resources it needs to achieve its mission and vision and provide the very best healthcare to this community for generations to come.

Landon Merrill is a Masters of Healthcare Administration student at the University of Washington and currently an administrative intern at Summit Pacific Medical Center. His interests are in rural health, critical access hospitals and strategy. Any questions, comments, or concerns can be sent to: SPMC Administration, 600 E. Main Street, Elma, WA 98541