Rutherford Regional Health System continues on path to become part of Mission Health

Rutherford Regional Health System’s path to becoming a part of the Asheville-based Mission Health system continued yesterday when Mission announced that the two health systems finalized a non-binding memorandum of understanding. In layman’s terms: Both RRHS and Mission Health have agreed to mutually accepted expectations as both work toward the full affiliation.

Hospital mergers usually seek one of two affiliation agreements: a full affiliation or a management affiliation.

Last year, Xpress published a story that explored the issues of hospital mergers (“Let’s get together: WNC hospitals face financial pressures to merge”) including the one between Mission Health and RRHS.

Under the full affiliation that Rutherford Regional Health System is pursuing, Mission Health acquires the assets of the institution and essentially becomes the owner. When Xpress talked to Mission Health President/CEO Ron Paulus last year, he explained the differentiation between agreements like this: “The management relationship would be like a dating relationship, and the full affiliation is more like marriage.”

In that same conversation Xpress with Paulus last year, he said that Mission has no plans of expanding into other states.

The release from Mission Health can found in full below:

Press release

From Mission Health

Rutherfordton, NC (January 22, 2013) – Rutherford Regional Health System (RRHS) and Mission Health System Inc. (Mission) have finalized a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) for RRHS to become a full-member hospital of Mission, a North Carolina non-profit corporation. The signed MOU authorizes the RRHS Board of Trustees to move forward with necessary steps to complete negotiations regarding the proposed partnership.

The MOU outlines the major terms of the proposed relationship between RRHS and Mission. The due diligence and negotiation process will take place beginning immediately and a definitive partnership agreement will be finalized at the completion of those processes.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the RRHS Board of Trustees will maintain a strong, long-term voice in the strategic direction of the health system. In addition to allowing due diligence and negotiations to begin, the MOU outlines how the proposed relationship will meet the essential criteria established by the RRHS Board of Trustees at the onset of the affiliation process. These criteria include the partner’s willingness and ability to strengthen the quality of care provided at RRHS, protect employees, improve the health system’s financial viability, enhance the services it provides, collaborate with medical staff and to benefit the health and wellness of the community.

Ronald A. Paulus, MD, President and CEO of Mission Health, said, “Rutherford Regional Health System serves its community with great compassion, and we are eager to extend our collaboration with such a well-respected healthcare organization. Rutherford Regional and Mission Health both seek to provide our patients with safe, high-quality care that is convenient and close to home. Working together, we can achieve our BIG(GER) Aim for all of the communities we serve: to get each patient to the desired outcome, first without harm, also without waste, and with an exceptional experience for the patient and their family.”

Mission and RRHS will now enter into a joint planning process to define and quantify the initiatives and resources that will be required to address existing and future needs of the RRHS service area. The planning process will focus on capital requirements, medical service providers and new and expanded services and will drive the long-term investment plan for RRHS facilities, providers and programs. The results of these joint planning efforts will be codified in a definitive partnership agreement between RRHS and Mission.

As part of a larger health system governed by and focused exclusively on western North Carolina, RRHS will gain economies of scale, management expertise, assistance with physician recruiting, and a host of other capabilities. Mission not only has the ability to provide significant financial investment in RRHS, but also to work with hospital management, employees and medical staff to grow existing healthcare services. It also could support the development of more specialized healthcare services locally by recruiting new specialists or through shared specialists with other facilities in the region.

“For most of the last year, RRHS has explored the possible affiliations that would allow us to strengthen our local health system,” said Terry Hines, Chairman of the RRHS Board of Trustees. “After lengthy consideration, the RRHS Board of Trustees unanimously selected to partner with Mission. We believe that joining with Mission will bring significant clinical and operational resources to our community. The partnership will enhance our ability to grow and provide more services to patients. We are very excited about the tremendous benefits this opportunity offers our community, medical staff and employees.”

About Rutherford Regional Health System
Rutherford Regional Health System (RRHS), based in Rutherfordton, NC, is a not-for-profit hospital system serving the people of Rutherford County and portions of Polk and Cleveland counties, North Carolina. With a team of more than 130 physicians, approximately 700 clinical and support staff, and 200 volunteers, RRHS offers a full range of services and the latest technology to meet the healthcare needs of the community. Thomson Reuters has recognized Rutherford Regional as a four-time Top 100 National Hospital, and Becker’s Hospital Review of Chicago has named RRHS as one of America’s top community hospitals each of the last three years. Additionally, in 2012, RRHS was recognized as a “Top Quality Performer in Key Quality Measures” by The Joint Commission, which accredits RRHS.

About Mission Health
Mission Health, based in Asheville, N.C., is the state’s sixth-largest health system and the region’s only not-for-profit, independent community hospital system governed and managed exclusively in western North Carolina. In 2012 Mission Health was named one of the nation’s Top 15 Health Systems by Thomson Reuters – the only health system in North Carolina to receive this recognition.

Mission Health, which traces its roots in the region back to 1885, operates five hospitals, numerous outpatient and surgery centers, and the region’s only dedicated Level II trauma center. Its medical staff consists of more than 1,000 physicians and is certified in over 50 medical specialties and sub-specialties. Mission Health has seven Centers of Excellence: Cancer, Heart, Mission Children’s Hospital, Neurosciences, Orthopedics, Trauma and Women’s Health. Mission Hospital, located in Asheville, is the system’s flagship hospital and is licensed for 730 beds. It is the regional referral center for tertiary and quaternary care and is the busiest surgical hospital in North Carolina. It also includes Mission Children’s Hospital– the region’s only children’s hospital. Other Mission Health member hospitals include Angel Medical Center in Franklin, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, McDowell Hospital in Marion and Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. With approximately 8,800 employees and 700 volunteers, Mission Health is dedicated to improving the health and wellness of the people of western North Carolina.

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