Never mind

Plans for a partnership between Rutherford Regional Health System and Mission Health no longer exist.

The July 19 announcement came nearly six months after the two organizations entered into a memorandum of understanding — a nonbinding agreement that signaled the beginning of negotiations. The culmination of that process would have concluded with Rutherford Regional becoming a full-member hospital of Mission Health.

However, that option is now off the table for both parties.

“Our resolve to enhance our ability to grow and provide more services to our patients remains as strong today as it did when we first agreed to examine this opportunity,” said Terry Hines, chairman of the RRHS Board of Trustees, in a statement. “As we open discussions regarding potential partnership with other highly respected health systems, we are confident that our patients will continue to receive exceptional quality care and services from RRHS’ dedicated employees and medical staff.”

Officials at Rutherford Regional Health System declined to provide further comment regarding the Rutherfordton-based hospital's next steps or potential mergers.

Typically, hospital mergers follow one of two agreements: a full affiliation or a management affiliation.

Last year, Xpress published a story that explored the issues of hospital mergers, including the one between Mission Health and RRHS (See: "Let's Get Together," October 2012).

Under the full affiliation the two systems were pursuing, the Asheville-based Mission Health would have acquired the assets of RRHS and essentially become the owner.

When Xpress talked to Mission Health President and CEO Ron Paulus last year about mergers, he explained the difference between agreements like this: “The management relationship would be like a dating relationship, and the full affiliation is more like marriage."

Like romantic relationships, though, hospital mergers don’t always work out. However, this is the first memorandum of understanding in recent years between Mission Health and another health system that did not lead to either a management agreement or full affiliation.

“After participating in a months-long, intensive process to determine whether and how a partnership would enable both organizations to better meet the needs of our communities, Mission has an even greater respect for the compassion with which Rutherford Regional Health System and its physicians serve its community,” Paulus said in a statement. “We respect and appreciate RRHS’s view that there are other potential partners who may create more value, and we wish them great success.”

Rutherford Regional Health System employs about 130 physicians, 700 clinical and support staff and 200 volunteers. Mission Health is the sixth-largest health system in the state, and employs approximately 1,000 physicians, 8,800 employees and 700 volunteers.

— Caitlin Byrd can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 140, or at cbyrd@mountainx.com.

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