The Missoula community had an opportunity to hear from representatives of the Montana Attorney General's Office, Community Medical Center, Billings Clinic and Regional Care Hospital Partners and Hellgate High School Wednesday evening regarding the proposed sale of Community Medical Center.

CMC's chairman Scott Stearns opened the discussion by explaining that the board chose to sell earlier this fall because of rapid changes in the health care industry.

"It’s extremely difficult to be that small, stand-alone hospital," Stearns said. "We are all by ourselves. The health care environment is changing. Care has been moving from an inpatient situation to an outpatient situation rapidly."

The forum included time for comments and questions, as well as presentations from all parties involved.

Billings Clinic CEO Nicolas Wolter said the future is bright for CMC and Missoula and added that they have been through many mergers before:

"We now have 10 communities join us, five of them are joining us formally," Wolter said. "We've been able to help three of them build new hospitals and we are also helping them with new physicians to expand their services. Our history of wanting to partner has created win-win situations."

RCHP CEO Marty Rash pointed out that the merge would continue good service to the community, something many audience members were worried about when moving Community Medical Center to a for-profit organization.

"We're only as good as the physicians taking care of their patients," Rash said. "Quality care is a hallmark of our company. Our focus is on a shared governance model. We will have a joint venture board, and all critical decisions on quality and safety are decided there."

The question and answer period began with a comment in opposition from former Missoula gynecologist John Brown:

"I think that it negates the good work that has been done in this community," Brown said. "The people of Missoula are fortunate to have received the level of care that they have received and there aren't many places you can go to and receive that kind of care these days. I think this is the biggest scam that has been hoisted on the people of Missoula. At this point, I would ask that the administration resign and that his cronies follow."

The Missoulian reported in September that the CMC board came to an agreement to sell the nonprofit hospital to a for-profit partnership between Billings Clinic and Regional Care Hospital Partners for $74 million, something many Missoulians are in full disagreement with.

But the question still remains: Where will the money go? Susan Hancock of Missoula Hospice Care had one suggestion:

"We would ask that the Community Medical Center look at the hundreds of nonprofits in Missoula, identify those in the health and social service arena, and ensure that the net proceeds be allocated to multiple organizations," Hancock said. "Please create a plan that will fund not just the big ones in Missoula that may have state or federal funding, but the little ones as well."

It still has not been decided where the proceeds of the sale of CMC will go, but it was discussed that a foundation of some kind will be a recipient.

The Attorney General's Office is still reviewing the proposed transaction. More information on the proposed transaction, as well as a form for submitting comments to the Attorney General’s Office, is available here.

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