MedWest ponders a new future

By Vicki Hyatt | May 15, 2013

On Monday, the MedWest governing board voted unanimously to search for a new partner willing to invest a significant amount of funds in the healthcare system in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties.

Board Chairman Mark Clasby said potential capital partners will be given several months to prepare their proposals, and it will take another couple months to evaluate the options.

“This is very important to the future of our hospitals and we will be thoughtful and deliberate on how we proceed,” Clasby said.

Questions such as whether MedWest will move forward as a system, or dissolve as the WestCare board voted to do or how much say a capital partner will have in the future look of healthcare within the region are premature, Clasby said.

“This a process,” he said, noting the board hoping there will be multiple proposals to choose from so a new path forward can be charted.

Four years ago, melding healthcare facilities and medical offices in Haywood, Jackson and Swain and then contracting with Carolinas HealthCare in Charlotte was determined to be the best path forward.

Clasby said circumstances have prompted the organization to re-evaluate the future.

“Things are different than they were then,” he said.

Part of the changes stem from federal healthcare reform and continuing need for investment in an increasing technological industry. Additionally, the WestCare/Haywood Regional Medical Center affiliation to form MedWest has been rocky. Eight months ago, the WestCare governing board, which is responsible for the Jackson and Swain healthcare facilities, voted to pull out of MedWest. This requires a three-fourths majority of the14-member MedWest governing board, which includes seven appointees from each entity.

No decision has been announced on whether MedWest will remain a single unit, but a news release indicates potential partners will have plenty of freedom to craft a proposal broadly or narrowly.

“The board recognizes that it is premature to determine what structure or form any future alignment may take and is open to consider all affiliation structures proposed by potential capital partners,” the release states.

No decision has been made on whether to proceed or with whom, the release states. The MedWest board action came after information gathered by Stroudwater, a national consulting group, was shared the three governing boards.

The news release indicates Carolinas HealthCare System, which has a 10-year management contract with MedWest, will continue its involvement as the board studies its options.

“We’re very excited because we’re moving forward,” Clasby said. “Life changes. You make the best decisions you can at the time, but it’s a world of change, and we have to change with it.”