REDMOND, OR -- Redmond City Councilors voted this week to support the creation of a new group representing the interests of the former Central Oregon District Hospital (CODH). St. Charles Health System took over the hospital in 2000 and agreed to have a Redmond representative on its board. But former Mayor Ed Fitch says they've not held up their end of the deal. He wants to change that. "Ensuring that the agreement that was reached between the Redmond community, through CODH, and St. Charles is upheld."
Fitch, a local attorney, says St. Charles hasn't had a Redmond representative on its board in about a decade, "They’ve appointed members to their board from Chicago and South Dakota and Portland. I mean, from my perspective, that really was telling Redmond ‘we don’t care'."
St. Charles has said it’s more important to have medical and hospital experts than regional representation on its board. During the resolution vote at this week's Council meeting, City Councilor Camden King said he believes it’s not an “either-or” situation, "I’m sensitive to their board directive, in terms of having subject matter experts. But I don’t understand why it can’t be ‘this and that,’ and also have some representation here; because, certainly, we have very competent medical minds here in Redmond, as well." There was unanimous support for Fitch's proposal; Mayor George Endicott said the need for more representation became clear last year, "When the decision was made by St. Charles to close the Redmond Birthing Center, it highlighted the fact that, even though Redmond, in our opinion, should be engaged with the St. Charles Hospital Board, it has not been for years."
Fitch is leading the charge to create Redmond Hospital, Inc., with five to seven members selected over the next two months, "The city will be appointing a member to the Redmond Hospital Board, as well as the school district, the Chamber and the Park and Rec Board. And then there will be two or three at-large members." He hopes the group will work to ensure St. Charles upholds that original purchase agreement. He admits it could lead to a lawsuit, "I hope it doesn’t. I mean, I would think St. Charles would recognize that they got this hospital for basically free, based upon a commitment to the community that the community would participate in any decision-making on it."
St. Charles Health System was not available for comment, following the City Council vote in support of Redmond Hospital, Inc. But a spokesperson issued the following statement:
According to the asset transfer agreement, St. Charles Medical Center and Central Oregon District Hospital (CODH) joined forces in 2000 for the express purposes of “(1) enhancing the public health and general welfare of all the inhabitants or residents with the district boundaries of CODH, and (2) providing quality health care services, ensuring access, and containing the costs of health care for persons in the service areas of SCMC and CODH in Central and Eastern Oregon and beyond.” Just over 18 years later, we can say with confidence that the goals of the merger have been—and continue to be—accomplished. This outcome was not a given. Health systems throughout the United States are currently struggling not just to maintain services and service levels; they are struggling to keep their doors open.
St. Charles has managed to succeed where others have failed because of its commitment to serve all of its communities in an efficient and effective manner. The health system intentionally moved away from a board comprised of community representatives in order to foster this more system- and region-centric view. The directors on today’s board are not asked to advocate specifically for the hospitals or clinics located closest to their homes. Instead, they are asked to advocate generally for all of St. Charles’ hospitals and clinics, recognizing that it is neither appropriate nor financially viable for a health system to provide a full range of services in each of its locations. In fact, it is becoming increasingly evident that attempts to be all things to all communities may be causing some health systems to sacrifice viability for expediency.
St. Charles will continue to explore ways of improving the health care it provides to Redmond and other communities. The health system welcomes the partnership of the Redmond City Council in this effort. Working together, St. Charles and the Redmond City Council really can make a positive difference for Redmond and its residents.