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News / Business / Clark County Business

OHSU, Legacy Health systems announce agreement to merge into OHSU Health

Officials say Clark County patients shouldn’t expect any changes in service that wouldn’t be positive

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 30, 2024, 5:56pm

Oregon Health & Science University and Legacy Health systems signed a binding, definite agreement to merge into OHSU Health, the two health systems announced Thursday.

The Portland-based systems announced plans to merge last summer but a binding agreement hasn’t been announced until now.

Officials from the two systems maintained Clark County patients shouldn’t expect any changes in service that wouldn’t be positive.

“Our expectation is that we will see nothing but improved and enhanced service,” said Charles Wilhoite, Legacy Health board chairman. “We’re doing this for the sole reason of increasing access to care, enhancing our quality and safety, and doing all those things, including managing the cost of care, that would be nothing but beneficial to the patients.”

OHSU Health will employ about 32,000 people and have about 100 locations, including 10 hospitals. The merger would make the new combined health system the largest employer in the Portland metro area, according to the announcement last year.

Legacy operates a hospital in Salmon Creek and several clinics in Clark County. It also partners with private-practice physicians in the area.

“The entire goal of this is we think we can be a better health system together,” said Wayne Monfries, board chairman for OHSU.

The systems hope to provide better access and care to all patients of the combined health system, Monfries said.

Doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners from Legacy Health’s Primary Care Clinics last month called for a union election in hopes of gaining a voice in merger discussions.

“We fully respect and appreciate our employees’ right to unionize, and we work with them in every regard to support that,” Wilhoite said. “I have no doubt that will carry forward under a combined situation.”

The Oregon Nurses Association said corporate mergers often end in higher costs and lower quality care.

“To avoid those pitfalls, OHSU and Legacy cannot leave this process exclusively in the hands of C-suite executives,” stated a Thursday news release from the association. “Hospital leaders must think differently and invite health advocates and experts in the field — including frontline nurses and health care professionals at Legacy and OHSU — to the table to ensure this unprecedented merger process is open, transparent and delivers on its promises to Oregonians.”

Both hospital systems have suffered significant financial losses since the COVID-19 pandemic, leading some to question if the merger would actually happen.

The merger will have to be approved by Oregon’s Health Care Marketplace Oversight program, part of the Oregon Health Authority. It will also need approval from Washington.

Pending regulatory approval from both states, the systems are hoping to finalize the merger in May 2025.

“We look forward to bringing all OHSU has to offer — its education mission, its research mission and its health system to the residents of Southwest Washington,” Monfries said.

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