Southwest Washington Health System & PeaceHealth


VANCOUVER, Wash. – Southwest Washington Health System (Southwest) and PeaceHealth today announced a formal affiliation between the two organizations. As part of the agreement, Southwest’s two hospital campuses, clinics, foundation, medical group, and other programs will join the PeaceHealth system of hospitals and health services, effective January 1, 2011, pending final regulatory approvals.  

“We welcome Southwest into the PeaceHealth family, as we expand the scope and quality of health care services in southwest Washington communities,” said Alan Yordy, President and Chief Mission Officer of PeaceHealth. “This affiliation is a tremendous opportunity to build on the strengths of PeaceHealth and Southwest to improve and expand access to the highest-quality health care services for every southwest Washington resident.”    

“Almost immediately we knew the two organizations were an extraordinary fit,” said Joseph Kortum, Southwest President and CEO. “We’ve spent the last seven months getting to know each other well. Our shared values and shared strengths position us well for continued growth of the quality and range of medical services we provide for this community.”

Shared Heritage of Healing

Both Southwest and PeaceHealth are grounded in the history and heritage of Catholic Sisters whose work in the Pacific Northwest began over a century ago. Through the tenacity of Sister Joseph of the Sacred Heart (foundress of Southwest, later known as Mother Joseph), and Sister Teresa Moran (foundress of PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, later known as Mother Teresa of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace), hospitals were opened, the sick were cared for, and community support was built to care for those in need.    

Under the affiliation agreement, Southwest Washington Health System, and its affiliates and services, will transition into the PeaceHealth operations and brand, and will continue to grow and serve the residents and communities of southwest Washington. The name of Southwest Washington Medical Center will become PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.     

Southwest is the region’s largest not-for-profit health care provider with 450 licensed beds and two hospital campuses (Medical Center Campus and Memorial Health Center).  It also operates an extensive network of primary- and specialty-care clinics throughout Vancouver. Southwest employs more than 3,700 staff, 90 of whom are physicians. Its active medical staff is comprised of more than 628 physicians, most of whom are private practitioners.    

Due Diligence Efforts  

In March 2010, the Southwest Health System Board of Directors extended an invitation to PeaceHealth to enter into formal affiliation discussions. The announcement initiated a period of due-diligence and fact-finding, as well as the development of terms under which the two organizations would join together.  At a two-day retreat in late October, the Southwest Board voted to approve the affiliation, and in early December approved the final terms of the agreement. The PeaceHealth Board gave its final approval on November 12.   

 “From the beginning, it was essential to maintain Southwest as a vital community resource,” stressed Lee Kearney, Chairman of Southwest’s Board of Directors. “This agreement makes clear our ongoing commitment to provide and expand comprehensive services in our community, retain local governance, and continue to direct philanthropic dollars raised by the Southwest Foundation to the medical center and the residents of Clark County.”   

Enhanced Regional Health Care          

The affiliation calls for establishing and expanding fully integrated regional network of care serving Clark and Cowlitz counties, and neighboring communities. This care network will feature a close working relationship between Southwest and PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, as well as expanded access to primary, specialty and ancillary services. This regional approach to care, which has been at the core of  PeaceHealth’s success in serving communities throughout Washington, Oregon, and Southeast Alaska, means patients will have access to high-quality, coordinated services and providers, close to home and work.  

 “For the residents of Longview-Kelso and our surrounding communities, this affiliation is about growth and opportunity,” said Sy Johnson, CEO and Chief Mission Officer for PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center. “Together with Southwest, we can expand access to care and services, while maintaining our community leadership and focus. I’m excited about this new vision for health care we’re creating for all residents of southwest Washington.”        

PeaceHealth Shared Services Center Commitment            

As part of the affiliation agreement, PeaceHealth has confirmed its commitment to establish a Shared Services Center in the Vancouver area. The PeaceHealth Shared Services Center  would consolidate many non-clinical support services for PeaceHealth such as Accounting, Finance, IT, Health Information Management, Patient Financial Services, HR/Payroll, and Materials Management. In addition, the PeaceHealth executive offices will also move to Vancouver and be co-located in the new Service Center, which will eventually employ more than 500 caregivers by 2014. Most transitions to the Service Center and executive offices are anticipated to begin in mid calendar-year 2012 and continue through 2014 and beyond. A site has not yet been selected for the facility.          

Local Oversight for Foundation and Board Governance  

Under the affiliation, funds raised by the Southwest Foundation will continue to be directed exclusively to services and programs that benefit PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and the Vancouver/Clark County community. In addition, community governing boards will continue to have local oversight and governance in the Vancouver/Clark County and Longview/Cowlitz County areas.    

“Improving health care access and services to our communities is what our Mission calls us to do,” said Sr. Andrea Nenzel, PeaceHealth Board Chair. “That’s where we started nearly 120 years ago with our first hospital in Bellingham, WA, and that continues to be our focus today. We couldn’t be more optimistic about the benefits this affiliation will bring to the residents and families of southwest Washington.”          

Shared Mission and Values    

Southwest was the first hospital established in the Pacific Northwest, founded in 1858 by Sister Joseph of the Sacred Heart, later known to the Vancouver/Clark County community as Mother Joseph. She eventually founded many other hospitals, orphanages and institutions throughout the Northwest, from Vancouver and Portland to Seattle, Spokane, Idaho and Montana. After her death, Mother Joseph was honored by the American Architects Association as the first architect of the Pacific Northwest.  

Mother Joseph’s story is remarkably similar to that of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, who came to the Pacific Northwest in 1890 to establish a hospital in Bellingham, WA, bringing desperately-needed medical care to the loggers, millworkers, and fishermen of that area.  After establishing St. Joseph Hospital, under the leadership of Sr. Teresa Moran, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace helped expand hospital services to other communities in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.