Thirteen representatives from Memorial Health System and Salina Regional Health Center attended a Town Hall meeting on a rainy March 22 evening to talk about their plans to affiliate.
Approximately 25 members of the public were in attendance and many of them either were present or former Memorial Health System (MHS) employees.
MHS Board of Directors Chairman Dr. Steve Schwarting opened the meeting by explaining that he had been involved and concerned about hospital issues since he moved to town in the 1970s.
After becoming a member of the board, Schwarting said no one was “keen” on the idea of affiliation, but over the years it became obvious there were “more pluses than minuses.”
Schwarting said comments he had made about affiliation at a Rotary Club meeting had been “misrepresented” in a letter to the editor which appeared in the newspaper.
What he was saying was “anybody that hasn’t worked in health care and health care administration over years and years cannot really understand the issues pressing on hospitals and hospital systems everywhere right now,” Schwarting said.
He said that is the reason MHS has been gathering information about affiliating for months and said it’s possible the board would vote on the question in the next few weeks.
Harold Courtois, MHS chief executive officer, gave a presentation that answered questions which have been posed by the public regarding affiliation and explained reasons why the affiliation is a good idea.
“One thing we want you to know is we have put a lot of work into examining an affiliation with Salina Regional, but it’s been kind of slow because we went through a COVID year,” Courtois said.
He noted that Memorial and Salina Regional already share a lot of policies and protocols and affiliation would make it “across the board,” creating a continuity of care issues.
Salina Regional Health Center CEO Joel Phelps told those gathered that the Memorial board of directors would still govern Memorial Hospital, Courtois would still run the hospital much as he does now and employees would not see much change.
Phelps said both Salina Regional and MHS would benefit, along with Salina Regional’s existing affiliates, the Concordia and Lindsborg hospitals.
Dr. Robert Freelove, chief medical officer with Salina Regional, explained that the addition of Memorial Hospital with Salina, Lindsborg and Concordia would make the region strong for healthcare and said that sharing the same electronic record system would benefit all.
Dr. Schwarting said the time to affiliate is now, while Memorial Hospital is still a strong hospital. He noted that’s the time to decide, rather than waiting until the hospital is a weaker position and cannot pick a partner or when the hospital is in danger of closing.
Memorial board member Tony Geiger said he feels positive about the proposed affiliation with Salina Regional and has seen how both Concordia and Lindsborg hospitals have benefitted from their affiliation.
Those in attendance also learned:
• Tax dollars would remain in Abilene and controlled by the MHS board of directors
• MHS bills that are paid now will be paid by SRHC in the future
• Affiliation would most likely take place on Jan. 1, 2022.
The regular meeting of the Memorial Health System Board of Directors will be at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow Tuesday, April 6 in the board room at Memorial Hospital.