UW Medicine leadership expects all parties will adhere to alliance, says spokeswoman

The elected commissioners of Public Hospital District No. 1, citing a legal opinion in their favor, want to "revise" the strategic alliance agreement between Valley Medical Center and UW Medicine.

But Wednesday a spokeswoman for UW Medicine said it's the "expectation" of UW Medicine leadership that all parties involved with the strategic alliance will adhere to the agreement.

The board members March 19 adopted a resolution on a split 3-2 vote, authorizing board President Dr. Paul Joos and Vice President Anthony Hemstad to negotiate with UW Medicine “to revise the parties’ strategic alliance agreement in order to bring the agreement into conformity with applicable law and public policy.”

Voting for the resolution were Joos, Hemstad and Dr. Aaron Heide. Dissenting were commissioners Carolyn Parnell and Sue Bowman.

The strategic alliance received the final approval last June. Since then, a 13-member board of trustees, which includes the five elected hospital district commissioners, has overseen the hospital operations and the integration of Valley Medical into the UW Medicine System.

Hemstad said in an interview Tuesday the next step following the adoption of the resolution is to begin negotiations with UW Medicine.“Hopefully UW will negotiate," he said.

“I think the process (strategic alliance agreement) was rushed," Hemstad said. "If it would have been a more deliberative process, these legal issues would never have arisen. It was unduly rushed.”

The alliance agreement was brought before the board in January 2011. According to Hemstad the board saw the agreement “for the first time in May.” It was voted on in June and took effect in July.

Tina Mankowski, a spokeswoman for UW Medicine, said Wednesday the University of Washington and the hospital district commissioners established the strategic alliance agreement during eight months of extended negotiations.

"As the integration work continues, it is the expectation of UW Medicine leadership that the Board of Commissioners, the Valley Board of Trustees and Valley management will adhere to the terms of the Strategic Alliance Agreement to advance our mission of improving health," she said.

According to a release from the hospital district board, Phil Talmadge from the Tukwila law firm Talmadge-Fitzpatrick and a former state Supreme Court justice and state senator, conducted a review of the agreement and determined it “illegally transfers responsibility from the district’s elected Board of Commissioners to an unelected Board of Trustees who are not accountable to the voters of the Hospital District.”

Talmadge was retained by the board in February to review the contract.

“Maybe I missed something, but I didn’t see any review (of the alliance) from the state attorney general or any independent counsel. I think this is a minor expenditure to get us an opinion on what happened last year," Joos said in February when the board hired Talmadge.

Mankowski said that during the negotiations each side was advised by its own legal counsel.

"The university was represented by the UW Division of the Washington Attorney General’s Office and outside legal counsel retained as special assistant attorneys general," she said.

According to the release, Talmadge concluded the agreement takes away the board’s “legal authority to manage and operate the hospital district. In so doing, it disenfranchises the voters who created the district, who support the district through their tax dollars and who chose the commissioners they want to operate the district.”

Dennis Box, editor of the Maple Valley and Covington Reporter, contributed to this report.


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