Salem Health has absorbed Hope Orthopedics, hiring nearly all the clinic’s providers and employees after months of discussions between the two entities.
The change was effective Sept. 29 and means the region’s largest health care provider will also be the main provider of orthopedics for the Salem area. Orthopedists care for muscle and bones, treating conditions like sports injuries, fractures and sprains.
Hope’s three former clinics, on State Street in Salem, and in Keizer and Dallas, will remain open. Patients can still see the same doctors, physical therapists and other providers at them, though signs outside the buildings now read “Salem Health.”
All Hope employees and providers were offered jobs with Salem Health, said CEO Cheryl Wolfe, and nearly all accepted.
“For us, this is mission-based because without this orthopedic group in our community, we can’t take care of our community,” Wolfe said. “We have a decades long history of working very collaboratively and well together.”
She said Hope providers first approached Salem Health in March and asked about becoming employees of the larger provider.
That’s part of a national trend of health care consolidation where hospitals buy or absorb independent groups of physicians, often because it’s more financially feasible for a larger health system to operate a practice.
Hospitals are generally able to charge higher reimbursement rates to commercial insurers for the same services compared to independent doctors. Wolfe said Hope’s providers were struggling to stay in business with the rates they were able to charge, which prompted them to reach out.
Salem Health employed 29 providers and 182 other employees from the former Hope clinics. Fewer than five of Hope’s employees opted not to remain on, Salem Health spokesman Michael Gay said. He declined to say the annual cost to Salem Health of employing the new providers.
It’s the third large group of providers Salem Health has employed in recent years.
In February 2022, Salem Health employed a group of Salem Clinic hospitalists after the clinic announced plans to dissolve the team, spokeswoman Lisa Wood said. Hospitalists are doctors who care for patients staying at a hospital.
In June 2022, the health care provider started an anesthesiology practice, hiring doctors who were previously employed by Oregon Anesthesiology Group. The group had a contract with Salem Health, but then announced it would stop providing service in Salem.
Wolfe said such decisions aren’t always about what can make money for Salem Health, because some services are required for the hospital to operate.
“Financially, it cost us four or five times as much as that contract did, but you can’t have a community hospital without anesthesia,” Wolfe said.
The outcome of health care consolidation on patient care and prices is variable, said Zachary Goldman, a health economist with Oregon Health Authority, who oversees the state’s Health Care Market Oversight Program.
“It really does depend on the situation on the ground,” Goldman said.
The program, created last year, reviews health care mergers and acquisitions over a certain size, as well as contracts and other health care business deals that will eliminate or significantly reduce essential services. Salem Health hiring Hope Orthopedics’ former employees wasn’t subject to review under the program’s criteria, Gay said.
As a larger health system, Salem Health can offer more charity care to orthopedics patients who otherwise might not have had an option in Salem, Wolfe said. Those costs are offset by the higher amounts commercially insured patients are often charged, which can be paid by the insurance company, the patient, or both.
Asked about the impact the change would have on the amount privately insured patients pay, Gay wrote, “Individual patient costs are determined by the insurance provider and the specifics of their particular benefit plan. Salem Health’s goal is always to reduce costs and add value for patients.”
Wolfe said there should be no change to the service patients receive since they’ll see the same providers at the same clinic locations.
“Any time any of these changes happen, people have opinions about it but I think they can expect to get the same care under Salem Health Orthopedics,” she said.
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.