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Shelby medical facilities and employees join KRH team

by KIANNA GARDNER
Daily Inter Lake | April 16, 2021 3:00 PM

Kalispell Regional Healthcare is expected to finalize its purchase of three separate medical centers in the Shelby area in May - a transaction that is considered a major step toward the hospital’s goal of becoming a regional network provider.

The purchase has been in the works for more than a year now, since the Toole County Commissioners released a Request for Proposal (RFP) last January for an entity to acquire the assets of the centers. Kalispell Regional, which is in the process of rebranding to Logan Health, submitted a proposal, as did Benefis Health System in Great Falls.

The commissioners unanimously approved Kalispell Regional’s proposal to purchase the Marias Medical Center, Marias Heritage Center and Marias Care Center in June 2020. According to Kalispell Regional spokesperson Mellody Sharpton, hospital officials hope to complete the final details of the transaction by the end of April.

Kalispell Regional will assume the debt associated with the three facilities, which amounts to approximately $1.5 million. The hospital has also committed to investing $2.5 million over the next five years to upgrade electronic health record systems and perform various capital improvements.

Sharpton said 115 employees with the Marias Medical Center and Marias Heritage Center formally became Kalispell Regional Healthcare employees on April 1 - a date that marked 70 years since the Shelby facilities were constructed.

Employees with the Marias Care Center will join the network May 1.

According to Sharpton, the three facilities will undergo name changes in the coming months as Kalispell Regional continues its rebrand to Logan Health, announced in early December. The Marias Medical Center will become Logan Health Shelby, Marias Heritage Center will become Logan Health Assisted Living Shelby and Marias Care Center will become Logan Health Care Center Shelby.

KALISPELL REGIONAL is also inching toward welcoming the Pondera Medical Center in Conrad and Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cut Bank into its family.

According to Sharpton, the two centers “entered into exclusive discussions” with Kalispell Regional in 2020. The intent of that communication was to “explore and evaluate a deeper relationship” with Kalispell Regional.

Those relationships have progressed, and within the last month, each of the facility’s Board of Directors has approved their individual Member Substitution Agreements. Sharpton explained that the agreements are not technically purchases, but are non-cash transactions under which the Kalispell Regional Healthcare system would become the sole corporate member of the entities.

Pondera Medical Center’s Board of Directors is expected to vote on the final agreement by the end of April. If greenlighted, the facility will be integrated into the soon-to-be Logan Health system in May and would eventually be called Logan Health Conrad.

As for the Northern Rockies Medical Center, which employs nearly 100 full-time and part-time individuals, Sharpton said the facility’s agreement with Kalispell Regional must be put to a membership vote.

The center has a network of more than 300 “members,” which according to Northern Rockies Marketing Manager Stephanie Eney, are people who at one point donated to the non-profit organization.

Eney explained that over time, local community members have “given graciously” to the medical facility, and for every $100 donated, that donor received one vote. For example, if someone donated $1,000 to the center, they would be allotted 10 votes.

All told, there are approximately 9,000 votes spread among the 300 members.

The center classifies the group more as stakeholders than shareholders because aside from their one-time donation, the members are not financially tied to the center in any capacity. According to Eney, that degree of separation means the group votes with the best interest of the center in mind, instead of what might benefit them personally.

The members vote on all major changes at the facility, which includes the pending Member Substitution Agreement with Kalispell Regional.

Eney said the members have been brought up to speed on the terms of the agreement via multiple meetings with Kalispell Regional and Northern Rockies personnel.

Ballots were formally mailed out to each member in early April. Only 51% of the 9,000 votes must be accounted for by the May 5 voting deadline, and 75% of votes cast must be in favor of the agreement in order for it to be finalized.

If the members OK the plan, the center will become part of the Kalispell Regional system in June and its name will change to Logan Health Cut Bank. At that point, Eney said the member voting process will be eliminated, though the center’s Board of Directors will remain in place.

Reporter Kianna Gardner may be reached at 758-4407 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com