In a room filled with anxiousness, Harrison Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Scott Bosch did his best to try to answer questions and calm nerves about the pending Harrison affiliation with the Franciscan Heath System.
Bosch, who hinted that the affiliation will be finalized next week, said patients won't be losing anything with the joint venture and will actually be giving themselves a better chance to keep a local hospital nearby.
"The (Harrison) board has done a great job of crafting this affiliation," Bosch said. "The board has done a phenomenal job of protecting your rights as a secular organization."
The affiliation would bring Harrison under the umbrella of the Franciscan Health System. Franciscan is a part of the Catholic Health Care System throughout the U.S.
But, Bosch said, Harrison will retain its own board of directors who will set policy. He spoke Wednesday night at a meeting of the Central Kitsap Community Council.
And Harrison will remain a separate secular institution, not held to the Franciscan Catholic ethical and religious directives.
He explained that there are three standards, however, that Harrison will abide by.
One is no elective abortions. Harrison also will not follow the so-called Death With Dignity provisions of state law. And the third is that Harrison will not do stem cell research.
"None of these things are things that we do now," he said."So it amounts to no change."
He said that doctors who are employees of Harrison now refer patients elsewhere if they want an elective abortion or want to follow Death With Dignity.
He said the hospital has never done stem cell research and most of that in this area is done at the University of Washington.
"Our physicians will still be able to provide counseling on these subjects, and can still provide contraceptives, tubal ligations, vasectomies, and discuss end-of-life decisions," he said.
Bosch told those attending that the reason Harrison's board decided to look at an affiliation is because of the rising costs of providing health care and the uncertainty of what changes will take place when the Affordable Heath Care Act is fully operational.
"It's a black hole," he said. "We're not certain but it could cost us upward of $2 million in the first year. We're not big enough to cover that. But Franciscan is."
What the affiliation brings, he said, is more buying power.
"Because of their reserves, as part of Franciscan we can get better interest rates when we go to borrow," he said.
Bosch told the audience that Harrison faces needing to go to an electronic record-keeping system and would not be able to afford that without the affiliation. He also said the affiliation will mean a better chance to upgrade buildings, equipment and services for patients.
He said employees and physicians who are hospital employees will not see any immediate changes and will retain their jobs.
"In time, there may be some movement to Franciscan's benefits and some employees may actually go to work for other companies because their work will be outsourced, but all of those things are decisions that this hospital administration and board would have a say in," he said.
Bosch said the actual dollar figure of the savings that will occur through the affiliation is not being made public right now, but that it is "significant."
He added that Franciscan has been very efficient and has great reserves and that is why they are in a position to work with Harrison.
"But their main goal has always been to create and maintain healthy communities," he said.
Several of those attending asked Bosch questions about what the future could hold, such as whether Franciscan could "take over" the Harrison board in the future, and whether Harrison could remain viable without the affiliation.
He told them that ultimately, the power lies with the board of the Franciscan Health Systems, and its board will have the power to hire and fire the Harrison CEO and approve board member appointments.
He also said without the affiliation, Harrison would not be competitive in the future and would not be able to offer what places like Swedish Medical Center and Virginia Mason in Seattle do.
"These are all 'what if' scenarios that aren't very realistic," he said. "I came here eight and a half years ago to see that this hospital remained independent. And then the world changed on me. This affiliation is the right thing."