Changes: Silverton Health names Legacy as potential partner, CEO to retire

April 2015 Posted in Business
Sarah Fronza

Sarah Fronza

By Kristine Thomas

At Silverton Health, it is a time of change, endings and beginnings.

On March 11 the Silverton Health Board voted to begin formal discussions with Legacy Health about partnering.

Five days later the medical staff received the news via an email from Silverton Health Board Chairwoman Gayle Goschie.

Then on March 24, Silverton Health President/CEO Rick Cagen announced he will retire July 1. He said he will work with the leadership team to create a letter of intent to form a partnership with Legacy over the next few months.

Sarah Fronza has been named to serve as interim CEO when Cagen retires. In early March, Fronza was promoted from chief operating officer of accountable care and service transformation to vice president by the Silverton Health Board of Directors

Silverton Health Executive Vice President and Chief Strategic Officer Rob Johnson will retire June 1.

Speculation about impending changes had been swirling through the health care community since October.

“As you recall, last October the Governing Board agreed that in order for Silverton Health to remain vital, it could no longer remain a stand alone health system,” Goschie wrote to the staff.

“Since that time, the Board has been diligently working to determine an organization most suitable to help us grow and continue to be the healthcare leader of our community…. We are excited about what this means for the future of Silverton Health. We understand how difficult this waiting time has been and are extremely thankful to all of you for your support throughout this process,” Goschie said.

The news Silverton Health was working to form a partnership with Portland-based Legacy Health came as a surprise to many community members who thought Providence Health was the most likely partner.

In an interview last June, Cagen said he told the board he believed it would be best to enter into a management agreement with Providence, and then for Silverton Health to be acquired.

“From a data and financial standpoint, we are struggling financially,” Cagen said at the time. “We have large capital projects we need to do and we don’t have the cash to fund those projects. If we want to continue to grow and provide quality service to our community, we must partner.”

On March 24, Cagen, Goschie, Fronza and Silverton Health Marketing Communications Director Rita Kester all stressed they could not discuss any details of what led the board of directors to select Legacy, or details of the negotiations of the letter of intent.

“There are still many details to work out and the letter of intent is just the first step of many prior to finalizing an agreement between both healthcare systems,” Kester said.

Cagen said he expects it to take six to 10 months before an agreement is reached and approved the Oregon State Attorney General.

Legacy Health operates five hospitals in the Portland area and one Vancouver. The partnership with Silverton Health would be its first south of Tualatin.

Rick Cagen

Rick Cagen

Right time to retire 

When Cagen started at Silverton Health almost five years ago, he said it was his goal to retire by the time he was 65. He will be 64 in May.

“When we began this process 18 months ago to find a suitable partner, I knew there needed to be a transition in the management team and this is the perfect time for the transition,” Cagen said.

He joined Silverton Health in October  2010. He was promoted to president/CEO in 2011 when Bill Winter retired. Cagen has seen the hospital through layoffs, a furlough for managers in 2013, and cutbacks in services. He made the recommendation to the board that if Silverton Health is to remain vital and serve its community, it would have to partner.

“We can’t stay small,” Cagen said. “We can’t be successful as a small organization.”

During his tenure, Cagen oversaw the introduction of healthcare reform and reduced the cost of providing care by cutting expenses from decreasing unnecessary emergency room visits to increasing the number of preventative screenings and primary care visits.

“I am grateful to have worked with a board, providers and staff that have a shared commitment to the communities we serve,” Cagen said in announcing his retirement. “This is an extremely innovative and courageous organization.”

While community hospitals have closed in many small towns cross America, Cagen said Silverton Health expanded to increase access to care with the opening of the Keizer Health Center and the transformation of the Woodburn Health Center.

“We’ve grown our specialty services to include pediatrics and telemedicine, we’ve established a physician-hospital organization and have become a state and national leader in the development of accountable care,” Cagen said. “Being part of Silverton Health and having the opportunity to lead such a wonderful team has been one of the greatest joys of my life.”

New ideas and initiatives

Cagen praised his successor Fronza for her leadership style, adding she is a visionary who knows how to collaborate and bring people with different opinions to the table to focus on a single cause.

“She is a competent and innovative leader,” Cagen said. In a time of healthcare reform, he said, there needs to be leaders who “think differently and who are creative.”

Goschie said Fronza’s experience in accountable care and service transformation “makes her the perfect person to leader our organization into the future.”

Fronza started with Silverton Hospital in 2007 as a registered dietitian and diabetes educator. She was named chief operating officer of accountable care and service transformation in December.  Fronza received her bachelor and graduate degrees from Purdue University. She is a 1993 graduate of Silverton High School.

Fronza said she is someone who takes words and puts them into action.

Things are changing, from demographics to how healthcare is provided, Fronza said. Her goal is to make sure the hospital keeps abreast of the change.

Fronza led the implementation of the patient-centered medical home model in all four of Silverton Health’s primary care clinics.

“I am grateful for this opportunity,” Fronza, 39, said. “It’s an honor and privilege to continue to work with the medical staff, employees and board of directors as we carry on the tradition of providing exceptional care and upholding the commitment of Silverton Health has made to our communities.”

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