Former staff member at CMC speaks out on possible merger


MISSOULA, Mont. - A former staff member at Missoula's Community Medical Center is speaking out about the way hospital officials are reviewing possible merger options.

NBC Montana previously reported that in a letter addressed to the community, the hospital's board gave several reasons for pursuing a partnership with a different entity, like improved quality of care.

Hospital officials say all potential candidates have signed nondisclosure agreements.

Several medical professionals tell NBC Montana it is common knowledge that a potential merger has been discussed with Providence Medical Group, which owns Missoula's other hospital St. Patrick Hospital.

There have been some criticisms that Community Medical officials aren't gathering enough public input in their decision-making process.

"Since the community owns the hospital and thousands of people, including myself, have donated thousands of dollars to the hospital and the foundation, we felt that there should be some opportunity to express our opinion on what the board was contemplating doing," said Dr. Philip Barney, who served as Community Medical's Director of Laboratories from 1982 to 2002 and as VP for Medical Affairs from 2005 to 2008.

Barney is now living in Arizona, but he's following the story closely.

"I think there are a variety of options. I don't think there are any questions that reimbursement is going to change for hospitals," said Barney.

Barney wrote a letter to CMC officials imploring them to tread lightly. Before any final decision is made, he says, it is incumbent upon the Board to consider Community's founding as a hospital meant to give the Missoula community an alternative, and he says the Board should think about the importance of gathering opinion from the community.

"I think having a single hospital in Missoula would reduce the options for physicians. I think that some of the competition that the hospitals have is healthy," said Barney.

Hospital officials say the Board has signed nondisclosure agreements. The Board says that's typical of potential merger negotiations, to help negotiation for the best deal. The Board also says that best practice is to not release details of a merger until the negotiations have been completed.

"I'm not opposed to nondisclosure agreements in general when sensitive issues are discussed...but I don't see it appropriate, then, to make a decision without further discussion with the public, without disclosing what some of the options are and the reasons for the Board favoring one option or another," said Barney.

NBC Montana is reaching out to Community Medical Center Board members about Barney's concerns and will bring you their reactions once we have them.