The Northern Rockies Medical Center (NRMC) Board of Directors voted unanimously on March 30 to “strengthen healthcare services” to Glacier County and the surrounding area by “partnering with the Kalispell Regional Healthcare System (KRHS)/Logan Health system.”  To achieve that goal, the members of NMRC must approve an amended set of bylaws which calls for a “membership substitution agreement” allowing KRHS/-Logan Health to become the sole corporate member of the local medical center.

According to Cherie Taylor, NRMC’s Chief Executive Officer, an in-depth, informative packet with the ballot, bylaws and frequently asked questions and answer sheet were mailed out to all members last week.

If you are a member of NRMC’s nonprofit, and didn’t receive a packet, please call NRMC at 873-3737.

Rick Billman, Chairman of the NRMC Board of Directors, believes “this is a good move for NRMC and a benefit for our community.” Billman has served on the board for the last 17 years. “KRHS/Logan Health has proven their commitment to NRMC and the Hi-Line during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said Billman. NRMC is one of three area hospitals possibly joining the KRHS/Logan Health system. The others are Toole County Medical Center in Shelby and Pondera Medical Center in Conrad.

Billman said the “membership substitution agreement” and amended bylaws, if approved, “promises to make health care sustainable in Cut Bank and increase access to care for all of us. It will provide NRMC with access to many opportunities, including support in recruiting medical staff, additional services so we won’t have to leave the Cut Bank for medical care, a local voice with continued representation from the board of directors, and, best of all, financial stability.”

NRMC is holding two informational meetings to educate its members on the benefits of the “membership substitution agreement” and to answer any questions members may have. The meetings are scheduled for Thursday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, April 14, at 6:30 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the NRMC Conference Room. Masks will be required and anyone attending will need to be screened before entering NRMC, per the hospitals COVID protocols. For those members who prefer to attend the meeting virtually, Zoom meeting instructions were mailed out in every member’s packet last week.

While it sounds ominous, a “membership substation agreement” is actually a common structure used by nonprofit hospitals to transfer ownership to a single new member. According to Taylor, the single-member model offers a great deal of local control while allowing NRMC to enjoy the benefits of being part of a larger organization. As part of the agreement, NRMC will retain a local board of directors. The plan also ensures that donations designated for NRMC will stay local, she said.

All existing medical services at NRMC will remain. In addition, there will be no changes to staffing and the current administrative leadership will stay. The board of directors also will remain intact, providing local control and guidance. The most notable change will be NRMC’s current membership will no longer be the legal owner of NRMC, but will “continue to be served by the local NRMC Board of Directors.”

Taylor pointed out, “NRMC will be able to expand the high-quality clinical services it provides, including bringing visiting specialists from the KRHS/Logan Health system to Cut Bank as well as exploring the possibility of additional outpatient services such as endoscopy, urology, orthopedics, and outpatient surgery. This means local residents will be able to seek care locally rather than travel long distances for the same services. The decision to proceed with a Member Substitution with KRHS/Logan Health is all about providing more access to more services for area residents.”

Taylor further assured, “No jobs will be lost at NRMC. In fact, the Member Substitution will protect jobs. In addition, NRMC employees will be transitioned to KRHS/Logan Health’s benefits plan, which is more generous than what NRMC currently offers.”

Billman wants to make sure NRMC members understand KRHS/Logan Health is not purchasing NRMC. “This is a membership substitution agreement rather than an asset purchase. However, KRHS/Logan Health is committed to making significant investments in NRMC, including purchasing equipment and infrastructure for the medical center over the next five years.” 

Taylor said one example of KRHS/Logan Health’s plan to invest is a new electronic medical record platform that helps coordinate care with other hospitals. 

It is extremely important that NRMC members vote and return their ballot, postmarked no later than April 30, in order for the agreement to go through. All ballots will be opened and counted at the NRMC Annual Meeting on May 5. If approved by members, NRMC will transfer ownership to KRHS/Logan Health effective June 1 and NRMC will begin doing business as Logan Health — Cut Bank.

 “The NRMC Board of Directors voted unanimously to join with KRHS/Logan Health because it keeps the board local, the jobs local and our healthcare local,” stressed Billman. 

For more information, contact Taylor or any member of the NRMC Board of Directors, which includes Billman, Lon Peterson, Joyce Lewis, Dr. Mark Haemig, Gail Davis, Henry Clay, MD, Linda Luther, Richard Gannon, Brian Suttle and Larry Schwindt.

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