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Glendive Medical Center announced Thursday a plan to sign a nonbinding letter of intent to explore affiliation options with Billings Clinic.

“We began exploring models of collaboration options more than a year ago,” Glendive’s chief executive officer Scott Duke said. “With the changing medical environment, we were looking at strategic directions to continue providing quality health care in our region.”

Billings Clinic has management services agreements with medical facilities in Colstrip, Roundup, Scobey, Red Lodge, Columbus, Big Timber, Livingston and Lovell, Wyo.

In a statement provided by Billings Clinic, physician in chief Dr. Mark Rumans said Billings Clinic is excited about the opportunity to explore options for affiliation.

It is often difficult for rural health facilities to access everything from technology to liability insurance. By partnering with Billings Clinic, medical facilities have been able to purchase these services at a fraction of the cost, sometimes as much as a 30-percent cost reduction.

“It’s a real win-win situation in the marketplace,” Duke said. “And it benefits the patient to have our volume and another volume joined — we both get better pricing.”

The affiliation model Glendive Medical Center and Billings Clinic will explore includes shared resources for enhancing clinical and medical provider integration and leadership, information technology advancements, increases purchasing power and recruitment and retention of staff.

“The models we looked at have commonalities with other partnerships, but our scope is a bit different,” Duke said. “This is not about the purchasing of a hospital or building a new facility, or giving up our local anatomy of our board. At the heart of it, we are looking at delivering patient-centered quality care.”

The medical center, with 475 full- and part-time staff, is largest employer in Glendive.

In addition to the 25-bed critical access hospital that provides 24-hour emergency care and medical and surgical services, GMC operates two nursing homes with 151 beds, an extended care unit with 71 beds, Eastern Montana Veterans Home with 80 beds, an assisted living unit with 13 beds and Gabert Clinic and Pharmacy.

Additional facilities are a possibility, Duke said, but not likely in the immediate future. The hospital recently completed a $23 million renovation on the surgery unit, which extended to many other departments.

If Glendive Medical Center and Billings Clinic reach an agreement, the facility would continue to be locally owned and operated under the existing Glendive Medical Center license and would retain a local volunteer board of directors, Duke said.

During the coming months, Glendive Medical Center and the board of directors will conduct community meetings to provide details and take questions and comments.

“The biggest thing in the entry phase is asking everyone to share their comments, ask their questions, and be a participant in this process in order to provide the best information to the board,” Duke said. “So far, I’ve seen a genuine interest among medical providers, employees, board members and patients. There seems to be a willingness to participate in this process.”

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