Salem Health has narrowed down its prospects for a possible health care affiliation, officials announced Monday.
After seeking proposals from seven organizations on the West Coast, Salem Health is in talks with Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.
CEO Norm Gruber said in a phone interview that the two organizations will discuss details of the possible agreement for the better part of this year. Executive staff and board members from both organizations will figure out what the agreement could look like through a series of meetings.
The hope is that the two hospitals would figure out the terms of the partnership by reaching many small agreements throughout the year.
Salem Hospital's cancer institute and OHSU's Knight Cancer Institute have been working together for several years to help Salem's cancer patients receive care closer to home. That collaboration has shown that the two organizations are culturally compatible, Gruber said.
Salem Health announced that it was seeking a partnership last fall.
During the proposal process, leaders wanted an organization that would complement Salem Health culturally and in its mission, Salem Health board chairman Alan Costic said. The board also wanted to maintain local control as a community hospital, Costic said.
OHSU seems to fit that bill, leaders say, though there's still a lot of work to be done.
OHSU already partners with various community hospitals across the state to ensure more patients can receive the care they need close to home, spokeswoman Lora Cuykendall said.
It has telemedicine arrangements with about a dozen hospitals in Oregon and southern Washington, and additional affiliations with hospitals in Astoria, The Dalles and other communities, Cuykendall said. The nature of the partnerships vary depending on the hospital and community, she said, and it's too early to know what a partnership with Salem Health could look like.
"We are the state's only academic health center, so our mission is to improve Oregonians' health," she said.
Because the best thing for patients is to receive their health care in their community, Cuykendall said, OHSU strives to support community hospitals with the resources and expertise they need to make that happen.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said in a statement Monday that he was pleased to hear about the potential partnership between Salem Health and OHSU.
"OHSU is a health care juggernaut that provides leading-edge services to people from all across our great state," he said. "A partnership between our hospital and OHSU could catapult medical services in our community to be among the best in the Northwest and even the entire West Coast."
Affiliations and acquisitions have become common in America's health care landscape.
In 2012, more than $143.3 billion worth of hospital transitions and acquisitions took place, representing 1,063 deals. That trend is expected to continue in the near future as reimbursement models shift and care integration becomes more of a priority.