County Assumes Hospital Operation

“Pierce County will assume operation of Puget Sound Hospital’s behavioral health services within a month, according to Executive Doug Sutherland.Pierce County also intends to eventually purchase the hospital after obtaining Certificate of Need approval from the Washington Department of Health. This arrangement is subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.Pierce County has been operating the hospital’s behavioral health programs, which include psychiatric and chemical dependency services, since the 1970s.Pierce County will assume management of the two hospital buildings totaling 159,000 square feet of space, a medical office building and surrounding property at South 36th Street and Pacific Avenue. MultiCare Health System entered into a financial arrangement with the current owner to assure the county could acquire the hospital at a later date at a favorable price. MultiCare’s participation is reportedly aimed at maintaining behavioral health services without interruption. After administrators became aware of the bankruptcy and pending closure, MultiCare decided to provide assistance in order to avert a community crisis.Pierce County Executive Director of Community and Human Services David Soma said MultiCare’s ability to assist the county within a short time frame was helpful.Pierce County has provided services at the hospital since the 1970s through the Pierce County Regional Support Network, which is responsible for services including crisis, outpatient, residential, employment and inpatient, according to Fran Lewis, the county’s human services director and Regional Support Network administrator. The state Mental Health Division requires regional support networks to provide sufficient inpatient capacity in hospitals within the community for individuals in need of treatment, Lewis said.Lewis said Pierce County intends to hire as many present Puget Sound Hospital staff as necessary to continue the programs and ancillary services. She estimates that could be in the 250-employee range. The hospital admits about 100 psychiatric and chemical dependency patients combined a month.The hospital is owned by New American, which has announced it voluntarily filed a petition for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.”