Highline Medical Center in Burien and the Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System announced today they have agreed to explore a strategic affiliation. The West Seattle Herald/Highline Times interviewed Franciscan C.E.O. Joe Wilczek, left, & Highline Medical Center C.E.O. Mark Benedum.

Highline Medical Center & Franciscan Health System plan to collaborate: Better service & no layoffs expected

In addition to the press release below, the Highline Times/West Seattle Herald today interviewed Franciscan C.E.O. Joe Wilczek and Highline Medical Center C.E.O. Mark Benedum regarding the announcement of Franciscan Health System affiliating with Highline Medical Center.

Both C.E.O.'s say they see potential to reduce cost of healthcare in going at this together.

Mark Benedum: "With our board of trustees we have been going through an affiliation process over the past six months and the board selected Franciscan Health System as the organization that best met our criteria because of the alignment of mission. We feel they would support us best in supporting this community, so we are real excited.

"Highline Medical Center will remain non-religious. This is a similar situation to another two hospitals that became affiliated. Sisters of Providence is a large multi-state hospital organization and merged with Swedish in February. Swedish remained non-religious. This model is not unusual and has been implemented by other affiliations as well.

"One longterm benefit of this affiliation is that it secures jobs. There is no intention to do layoffs in terms of affiliation. We will engage in a plan over the next four to six months to decide what would be great additions to this community, a number of specialty services."

Joe Wilczek: "We want to enhance services. Because we are a larger organization it may be a little easier to help bolster up some services Highline will be providing. Also, with this affiliation services can be provided in areas where we don't have a lot of penetration in both Francis and Highline. The intent would be to grow services, not to contract services.

"This (affiliation) will bring some added capital to Highline, and that gives us the opportunity to develop more services, like bringing in a state of the art electronic medical record (system) which is very expensive and tough to implement. We're going through that right now at Franciscan and then plan to continue that process to Highline.

"In the health care field you now have to really grow, and the larger you are, the more you can save costs, in purchasing more and get greater discounts, 'savings in scale'. It becomes easier to contract with larger employers in the future. We'll also be in a better position to cover the larger geographic area.

"It takes about six months to try to work this all out, to get an affiliation committee from both organizations to hammer out the issues. Then we can get started on the planning process almost immediately. I think there is great confidence this will move forward. We've done the same thing in other markets, including the Enemclaw Hospital about four years ago."


Highline Medical Center in Burien and the Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System announced today they have agreed to explore a strategic affiliation.

“An affiliation with Franciscan Health System provides a unique and exciting opportunity for our organization,” said Highline Chief Executive Officer Mark Benedum. “We believe an alliance with such a high-caliber organization would bring incredible strength to our ability to achieve our mission and would greatly benefit the communities we serve.”

“I believe that Franciscan and Highline could make strong partners because we share respect for each other’s mission and history,” said Franciscan Chief Executive Officer Joe Wilczek. “Each of our organizations is committed to excellence in patient-centered, high-quality care. These qualities could form the foundation of a partnership that would benefit the communities served by Highline for generations.”

The Highline Board of Trustees and Franciscan Board of Directors have approved a letter-of-intent to explore a possible affiliation. Over the next several months, an affiliation committee comprised of Highline and Franciscan representatives will evaluate the benefits of an alliance and how best to structure a working relationship that could optimize the expertise of both organizations.

Through an affiliation, Franciscan and Highline could collaborate to assure the highest quality of care by sharing best practices and resources. By working together, the organizations could make it easier to access an array of services – from primary and specialized care to long-term care and research – on a scale neither could achieve on its own. An affiliation could also enable Highline and Franciscan to co-develop improved models for delivering care and managing chronic diseases. This could make health care less costly for Medicare and Medicaid, commercial insurers, and patients.

Another potential benefit of an affiliation would be a common electronic health record connecting Highline facilities and physicians. Franciscan is in the process of installing the Epic clinical information technology platform for its system-wide electronic health record that goes live in April 2013. Franciscan and its parent organization, Catholic Health Initiatives, have committed to implementing the Epic system at Highline Medical Center after installation is complete at current Franciscan hospitals, outpatient centers and medical clinics.
By affiliating with Franciscan, Highline would have access to capital resources for facility expansions and new technology not typically available to stand-alone community hospitals.

“I want to acknowledge our Board for their tremendous commitment to keeping our mission as the focus during this process,” Benedum said. “Their selection of Franciscan Health System for a potential affiliation will bring exciting opportunities to our community. We look forward to detailed discussions with the Franciscan organization over next several months.”

The soonest a formal affiliation could occur is early 2013 with the approval of a definitive agreement by the Highline and Franciscan boards. That agreement would then require approval by the Washington State Department of Health and other regulatory agencies before an affiliation could become official. The regulatory review process could take six months or longer.


About Highline Medical Center

Highline Medical Center, based in Burien, was established in 1958 and includes a 154-bed acute care hospital, a 115-bed specialty center, more than 20 clinics across from West Seattle to Vashon Island, and the Highline Medical Center Foundation. Its services include 24-hour emergency and trauma care, critical care, cardiac care, cancer care, inpatient medical and surgical care, imaging services, outpatient surgery, home health and hospice, addition recovery, and physical rehabilitation. Highline has more than 1,500 employees. Its medical staff includes more than 200 physicians with active and courtesy medical privileges. Highline online: www.highlinemedicalcenter.org

About Franciscan Health System

Franciscan Health System includes St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw, St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor; Franciscan Hospice House in University Place; Franciscan Medical Group clinics and providers in Pierce, King and Kitsap counties; and the Franciscan Foundation. Its services include 24-hour emergency and trauma care, critical care, heart and vascular services, cancer care, inpatient medical and surgical care, dialysis, orthopedics, neurosciences, birth centers, imaging services, outpatient surgery, inpatient and in-home hospice care. Franciscan has approximately 8,300 employees. Its medical staff includes about 1,400 physicians and other professional providers. Franciscan online: www.FHShealth.org.

Franciscan is part of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national non-profit health organization with headquarters in Englewood, Colo. The faith-based system operates in 19 states and includes 76 hospitals; 40 long-term care, assisted- and residential-living facilities; two community health-services organizations; two accredited nursing colleges; and home health agencies. In fiscal year 2011, CHI provided more than $612 million in charity care and community benefit, including services for the poor, free clinics, education and research. With annual revenues of more than $10.5 billion, CHI is the nation's second-largest Catholic health care system. CHI online: www.catholichealthinitiatives.org.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.