Affiliation approved

Joel Phelps, seated, CEO and president of Salina Regional Health Care, puts the final signature on an affiliation agreement between Salina Regional and Abilene Memorial Health System which was approved by the MHS board of directors Tuesday afternoon. Memorial Health Secretary Millie Fink, left, and board Chairperson Dr. Steve Schwarting witness the signature.

Calling it a “truly win/win” for health care, Salina Regional Health Center CEO and President Joel Phelps came to Abilene to sign the agreement approved Tuesday by the Abilene Memorial Health System board to affiliate the two health care organizations.

After a 30-minute executive session, MHS board member Julie Beswick made the motion “to approve and execute the management and operating agreement” with Salina Regional Health Center.  It was approved on a 5-0 vote with little fanfare as no members of the community attended the regularly scheduled meeting in the Nichols Conference Room.

“We have contemplated this action for a number of years,” said Dr. Steve Schwarting, MHS chairperson, after the vote. “After our agreement to look at the action last summer, we have investigated many aspects of the move. We feel there are short term benefits, but also and more importantly, long term benefits to this action.

“We want a secure System 10, 20 and more years into the future,” he said.

Phelps said he was “excited” about the affiliation.

“If you look at what our mission is, it is to improve the health of the communities we serve,” Phelps said after signing, making the affiliation official. “We see this as an extension of that. It gives us an opportunity to work with a successful health care organization, Memorial Health System, and to collaborate to improve that health.”

Memorial Health System has a lot to offer Salina Regional as it also operates Village Manor, Frontier Estates, Home Health and Hospice, and Impact Sports & Fitness as well as Memorial Hospital, Phelps said.

“There are strengths that Memorial Health System brings to the table that we honestly don’t do ourselves. It’s truly a win/win in those areas. We can learn about successful service lines Memorial Health System has been delivering for many years that we haven’t in the past,” Phelps said. “We have a lot to learn and could expand based on that experience as well.”

He sees this as a great opportunity for patients.

“If you are that patient, and one day we are all going to be that, if you present as a patient here (Abilene) or a patient in Salina, that common medical record is going to allow that care to be seamless and allow that care to be completely coordinated and provides us a really good chance to improve health. We are totally excited about that.”

Harold Courtois, chief executive officer of Memorial Health System, said those utilizing services of Memorial Health won’t see a difference when the affiliation goes into effect on Jan. 1. 2022.

In a statement, Memorial Health said ownership of the hospital will not change.

The one change is that all Memorial Health System employees will become employees of Salina Regional Health Center.

“The focus of the affiliation is to increase services and care available to the people of Abilene and Dickinson County. Nothing in the agreement inhibits or eliminates a patient’s ability to choose from whom or where they receive services,” the press release said.

“As health care continues to evolve, it is clear that we must continue to find ways to provide care more efficiently, effectively, and with coordination instead of competition,” Courtois said.

“This affiliation brings together two historically successful organizations,” Phelps said. “We look forward to working with Memorial Health System to provide more growth, stability and future opportunities.”

Salina Regional Health Center also has affiliations with Cloud County Health Center in Concordia and Lindsborg Community Hospital.

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