Parkview to acquire Wabash County Hospital

December 19th, 2014

News Coverage:

Parkview to acquire Wabash County Hospital

Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2014 11:00 pm

By Peter Ambrose

Wabash County Hospital will join the Parkview Health system at the beginning of the year in a deal that will bring the community a new hospital.

The parties are expected to close the deal this month, with an effective date of Jan. 1. The Wabash facility will operate as Parkview Wabash Hospital, said Parkview spokesman Eric Clabaugh.

The Wabash County Hospital’s board of trustees decided to explore the new affiliation in April after attempts to fund a new hospital on its own failed. In November, Parkview completed its due diligence process, Clabaugh said, and the boards of both organizations approved the hospital’s acquisition.

Since WCH is a county entity, the Wabash County council and commissioners also were required to approve the acquisition, which they did by a unanimous vote during a joint special session on Nov. 24.

“We’re happy to be affiliated with the hospital, and we’re looking forward to Parkview having an impact on the community,” said Scott Givens, the county commissioners chair.

The agreement to build a new hospital to replace the current aging facility is the cornerstone of the partnership. The project could cost about $35 million, estimated Marilyn Custer-Mitchell, chief executive officer of WCH.

Parkview has committed most of the necessary funds, about $30 million, she said. WCH plans to provide the other $5 million, using money the hospital has saved.

If construction of the new hospital isn’t complete, or at least substantially completed, within five years of the merger, a stipulation of the deal calls for Parkview to pay damages to the Wabash County Community Foundation, she said. The funds would be earmarked for health care issues.

A new facility would be in a better position to provide modern services with a more efficient use of space than what is available at the current hospital, which is located in a mostly residential area near downtown.

“It’s just not laid out well for how care is provided these days,” Custer-Mitchell said.

WCH has 25 beds in about a 150,00 square-foot space. The size dates back to when the hospital was licensed to hold more beds, she said, but now the organization doesn’t need that much space.

The structure is also an amalgamation of sections built at different times over the past 50 years, she said. The age and the layout combined result in an outdated building that’s expensive to maintain.

“Our facilities staff has done a phenomenal job making it as efficient as possible,” she said. “It’s still an old building and inefficient.”

Renovating the hospital would cost about as much as building a new one, Custer-Mitchell added.

The new hospital could have a smaller footprint, using less square footage, and include services like general acute care, inpatient care, a variety of outpatient services, and senior life solutions.

No firm plans have been presented yet. The organization is expected to hold its first planning meeting in mid-January, she said.

The decision to seek a health network affiliation came after WCH applied and failed to win a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a new facility on its own on a site it selected on U.S. 24.

“I think at this time, the hospital felt it was best for the hospital and the community as a whole,” said Givens.

The group had weighed options for merging with Lutheran Health Network, IU Health and Parkview Health for about two years, he said.

WCH chose to partner with Parkview because the two organizations share similar attributes.

“They have a very service-oriented culture,” Custer-Mitchell said. “That’s something we strive for, and that’s something we do a good job at ourselves.”

When Parkview takes over, and WCH becomes Parkview Wabash, the new hospital group will have a larger board of directors, growing from five to 12 members, she said. The board will consist of Wabash-area residents, including those affiliated with the hospital, and a representative from Parkview Health.

The current board will recommend who should make up the new board, and Parkview will decide whether to appoint those members, she said. Custer-Mitchell expects to remain CEO.

Most jobs will also remain intact, though she believes a few positions could be transferred to Fort Wayne.

The affiliation marks another expansion in the region for Parkview. The health network ceremonially kicked off construction in November of the new $20-million Parkview Warsaw health complex. Parkview already has facilities in Allen, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble and Whitley counties.

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