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Hearing is Friday on Valley Medical/UW Medicine alliance

Valley Medical Center is now affiliated with UW Medicine in an arrangement that several other high-profile medical institutions, including Harborview Medical Center, have with the University of Washington.  - Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter
Valley Medical Center is now affiliated with UW Medicine in an arrangement that several other high-profile medical institutions, including Harborview Medical Center, have with the University of Washington.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter

A King County Superior Court judge will hear oral arguments Friday in a lawsuit that could throw into doubt the strategic alliance between Valley Medical Center and UW Medicine.

Judge Michael Hayden already has written briefs in hand from lawyers for both sides. Whether he will issue his ruling Friday is uncertain.

The hearing Friday is at 10 a.m. in courtroom E-863 of the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle.

In May 2011 the commission for Public Hospital District No. 1 voted 3-2 to approve the alliance, which became effective on June 30, 2011, following the approval of the UW Medicine board and the University of Washington Board of Trustees.

But after the election of Dr. Paul Joos to the commission, the new majority challenged the alliance.

Under the strategic alliance, the board is responsible for overseeing the public side of the medical center, including taxes and the buildings and property. The day-to-day medical operations are overseen by a 13-member Board of Trustees.

The hospital district’s lawsuit maintains that the elected district commissioners could not delegate their legislative responsibilities for a public institution to unelected decision makers.

The lawsuit, according to a recent court filing by the commission’s attorneys, “has been initiated by reform-minded commissioners seeking to halt the raid on taxpayer funds by the district’s administrators.”

Rich Roodman, Valley Medical Center’s CEO, was one of the chief architects of the alliance.

“I would say that the public hospital district and its staff and ultimately its commissioners did appropriate due diligence in a very public way and achieved a remarkably well-thought-out and legally grounded affiliation with the University of Washington,” he said.

The University of Washington, too, was represented by its own counsel and the state Attorney General’s Office, he said.

The result of that vetting, he said, is that all the governing boards approved the alliance.

Attorneys for the University of Washington wrote that the agreement “is the result of democracy in action.”

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