Community Medical Center is considering a merger with another healthcare entity, and the hospital board of directors is seeking comments from the public.

Vice President of Planning and Marketing Mary Windecker said on Friday, March 21, that many in the area have already sent comments to the board regarding the possible merger.

"There are a number of questions that people are asking, such as why are we doing this, what's the reasoning behind it, are we in financial trouble," Windecker said, answering "no" to the last question. "Many are not understanding why Community would even be looking at this choice at this time."

Windecker said the healthcare industry has undergone a paradigm shift over the past few years, ever since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known commonly as Obamacare, was passed by Congress and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"A partnership will help address the changes in healthcare in many ways," Windecker said. "One, to gain economies of scale, two, to avoid any inability to fund what's happening in healthcare. We're going to be moving to a completely different model, from inpatient to outpatient, and we have to be ready to meet that need in the community."

Windecker said Community Medical Center has expanded their services in the past several years to better meet the needs of the western Montana area.

"We've looked at expanding some of our key service lines so that we're better able to serve the public," Windecker said. "Things like our women's and newborn center, and the new oncology center. We're really trying to streamline the care we provide as much as possible so that we can provide it as efficiently as possible."

Windecker emphasized that the board of directors is made up of volunteers from the community.

"Our board directors are all unpaid volunteers members of the community. They're well-respected, and they're looking at this issue of partnership with a great deal of detail because it's a very complex decision. It's important for people to know that if they do have comments, we certainly welcome them, and the board thanks them for participating."

Comments can be sent to contactus@communitymed,org.

Some rumors have surfaced that Community might be acquired by Providence Medical Group, owners of Missoula's St. Patrick Hospital, however, there is no official word of such a merger.

Windecker said there is no official timeline for an announcement regarding a possible merger. She said the board will take all the time necessary to consider every option before making a decision.

Vice President of Planning and Marketing Mary Windecker