PeaceHealth: 700 jobs in 10 years

Health system boosts what it plans to bring to Clark County

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter



In addition to the 340 jobs that PeaceHealth will bring to Vancouver by 2014, 300 or 400 more jobs will come to the area by the end of the decade, according to the chief executive of the nonprofit organization.

Alan Yordy, president and chief mission officer for Bellevue-based PeaceHealth, said the health system’s merger with Southwest Washington Medical Center is part of an effort to develop Clark and Cowlitz counties into the “premier network of health care in Southwest Washington,” providing safe and high-quality care that “comes from the heart.”

News that the marriage of PeaceHealth and Southwest could eventually bring more than 700 jobs to Vancouver by the end of the decade adds a fresh detail to a significant merger whose partners are only about four weeks into their new relationship.

Yordy made his comments to a group that included financial backers of Southwest and hospital board members who gathered Thursday evening inside the lobby of the hospital’s Firstenburg Patient Tower to celebrate the merger and to meet the leaders of PeaceHealth. An estimated 125 to 150 attended the event, which was not open to the public. Ken Cole, a spokesman for Southwest, said there are plans to include the general public in future get-to-know PeaceHealth events.

The Catholic-sponsored PeaceHealth, which has hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, is searching for a spot in the Vancouver area to relocate its headquarters and some back-office operations, bringing 340 new jobs to the area by 2014. Another 160 employees who already work in back-office operations for Southwest will be moved to the new location, bringing the total staff there to about 500.

Sister Andrea Nenzel, chairwoman of PeaceHealth’s board, said the partnership of PeaceHealth and Southwest, two organizations with similar cultures and values, “truly feels like that made-in-heaven win-win for all of our communities.”

Brett Bryant, a member of the board of directors of Southwest Washington Health System, which runs Southwest hospital, said the reasons behind Southwest’s decision to merge included the “unrelenting” pressure on health care costs and the “looming demands” of information technology.

Bryant, executive vice president and chief relationship officer for Vancouver-based First Independent Bank, said the Southwest board decided it was wise to pursue such a merger while the hospital was still “thriving and financially sound.” In examining whether PeaceHealth would be a good fit, Bryant said, the mission of the board was to determine whether PeaceHealth was “all they seemed to be.”

After countless meetings and rigorous review, Bryant said, the board found that PeaceHealth was all it seemed to be “and much, much more.” The partnership will enable Southwest to tap a bigger pool of capital, strengthen its commitment to quality and boost its ability to provide care for the poor.

“We need robust programs for the under-served,” Bryant said, and PeaceHealth will help Southwest improve those efforts.

Southwest and PeaceHealth kicked off merger negotiations in March 2010. In December, the two nonprofits announced that they had reached a final agreement. Altogether, the merger created a nonprofit health care company with roughly 15,000 employees, eight hospitals and nearly $2 billion in revenues.