Asante examines big picture for smaller hospitals

Asante Health System is positioning itself to become a major player among health care providers in Southern Oregon and Northern California, where it serves a nine-county region of 600,000 residents.

Five of those counties — Curry, Del Norte, Douglas, Klamath and Siskiyou — have stand-alone community hospitals.

While Jackson and Josephine counties are Asante's primary venues, Roy Vinyard, Asante's chief executive officer, said it attracts patients from areas served by the smaller hospitals.

"We've always worked closely with the hospitals in that outlying market," Vinyard said. "They are smaller hospitals, and they can't provide all the care patients in their communities need. We've worked with them over the years, and certainly if they were interested in becoming more closely aligned with Asante, we're willing to have that conversation."

Last October, when Sacramento-based Sutter Health made administrative changes involving Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City, the hospital's medical chief, Greg Duncan, suggested the Northern California facility might be better served affiliating with Asante. Vinyard went on record that Asante was willing to listen.

If anything more has developed, Vinyard isn't saying.

"Sutter Coast Hospital is looking at their future and where they need to be and who they need to be affiliated with. They've expressed interest in closer alignment," he said, declining to elaborate.

In general terms, however, he said such operations will increasingly encounter financial turbulence.

"Small, stand-alone hospitals are going to have difficulty remaining stand-alones in the future because of market forces," Vinyard said.

That in itself will create opportunity for growth for stronger neighbors such as Asante.

"I could see that (such growth) certainly occurring in the future," he said. "That said, we're not aggressively pursuing alignment with other hospitals, but we're open to working more closely in the future should they desire. I do not believe that our location has any impact on our likelihood of being involved in future transactions."

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