Valley General names new CEO
MONROE - Valley General Hospital’s lengthy wait to find its new partner in EvergreenHealth is finally over, and the hospital has picked a new CEO to head the partnership.
Eric Jenson, 58, will take the helm at Valley General. Jenson previously worked at the Regional Hospital for Respiratory and Comprehensive Illnesses in Seattle. Prior to that, he spent 13 years at Kittitas Valley Hospital.
Jenson will be taking over for the current interim CEO Michael Fraser.
The financially burdened hospital became an official affiliate of EvergreenHealth of Kirkland Dec. 4 after an unanimous decision by both hospitals’ boards.
Fraser, who has been heading the hospital since May, will be leaving the hospital now that the deal is closed. Fraser will go back into retirement.
Fraser’s last day will be sometime at the end of this month, he said.
“When I started in May, it was with this specific goal in mind,” Fraser said of finding a new partner for the hospital. “This was an unusual interim CEO assignment. In addition to helping the hospital find a new CEO, I was also in charge of helping to shepherd this into becoming an affiliate of another health organization. I feel very good about where things are, Evergreen is a very, very good hospital.”
Fraser said Valley General is in the beginning stages of adding additional services.
Evergreen will be adding a primary care clinic in March, which will help with a shortage of primary care services in the Monroe area, Fraser said.
“We’ve kept the community at the center of our work, and together we are eager to extend greater access to care and services to our Snohomish County neighbors,” Fraser said. “Valley General is an important part of the Monroe community and now we’ll continue to provide the services our residents and patients need from a familiar location.”
Valley General went through two unsuccessful partnership deals with other hospital companies last year. Providence Everett and Capella, a for-profit organization based in Tennessee, both pulled out of potential deals.
The two organizations cited Valley General’s large financial debt as reasons for backing out, which Evergreen’s new affiliation will likely ease.
Valley General, a public hospital, has been recording debts for the past five years due to charity care and bad patient debt as well as declining reimbursements from both the state and federal governments.
The partnership would help the hospital’s financial situation, which Fraser admitted “isn’t great.”
A merger also likely means an increase in specialists, more health care services, new medical equipment and hospital renovations.
Since Valley General is a public hospital, the emergency room can’t turn away people who don’t have health insurance or the ability to pay. As a result, unpaid hospital bills Valley General wrote off in 2011 added up to $8.3 million — the highest for any hospital in the state. Uncompensated care by the end of 2011 was expected to exceed $1 billion in Washington state, a 2011 state Office of the Insurance Commissioner study found. In general, rural areas have a higher number of people who don’t have health insurance, the study noted.
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