>Asset transfer moving forward
In less than three months, Mountain View Hospital will become St. Charles Madras under terms of a proposed asset transfer announced Monday.
   If the tentative agreement is approved, the 45-year-old hospital district, which operates the only remaining independent hospital in Central Oregon, will transfer all the district's assets to St. Charles Health System effective Jan. 1.
   The Mountain View Hospital District Board of Directors is unanimous in its support of the asset transfer, according to Jeanie Gentry, hospital CEO. The board will vote on the agreement at the board's next regular meeting on Oct. 23, at 5 p.m.
   "All of the due diligence work will be completed in time for the next meeting," she said, noting that the two organizations are in the process of drafting a written agreement and transition plan.
   Even though the name will be changed, Gentry and James Diegel, president and CEO of St. Charles Health Systems, plan to maintain services currently offered at the hospital -- including the obstetrics department -- and enhance other services, such as general surgery.
   "We're committed to providing the same high quality of care the Jefferson County community has come to expect from Mountain View Hospital," Diegel said. "This potential asset transfer ensures the long-term sustainability of the hospital, and is an important step forward in the transformation of health care delivery in the region."
   Faced with shrinking payments from Medicaid, Medicare and Indian Health Services which have caused a budget deficit at the hospital, the board began exploring several possibilities -- the asset transfer, a merger, or a lease -- earlier this year, and decided that the asset transfer made the most sense.
   "The main reason is we need some significant investment here, and St. Charles is willing to do that if they own the property they're investing in," she said.
   As part of the agreement, MVH will determine the value of the property to be transferred, as well as the liabilities that St. Charles will assume, said Gentry, who is employed by St. Charles.
   "Our staff members, in general, are positive and ready to move forward," she said. "There's been some of that concern (about job loss), but St. Charles has eased those fears by committing in writing to offer employment to all of our caregivers."
   Comments from the community were mostly positive at two public forums in July and August, Gentry said. "There have been some questions, but I wouldn't say there's been a lot of negative at all. When people learn more about what's going on in the health care community and what this brings to our community, they've been very supportive."
   The name change was suggested by St. Charles.
   "St. Charles had done some market research regarding their brand, and people's perception of that, including in Jefferson County, and it was highly thought of," she explained. "Since we're becoming part of their system, they want to go ahead and make the transition now -- make changes right away instead of over time."
   The hospital will also realize substantial savings in the purchase of medications and in the cost of making health records available electronically.
   "It's a very exciting time for us," she said. "We feel like we're poised, ready to grow some more. Good things are happening for us."
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