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PeaceHealth proceeds with plans to close downtown Eugene hospital

Image of University District hospital in downtown Eugene.
Rachael McDonald
Hospital executives say PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center University District generates net operating losses of $22–24M annually or approximately $2M monthly.

PeaceHealth has said the next steps in its plan to close the 117-bed University District hospital in Eugene are underway.

The closure requires regulatory approval. PeaceHealth officials say the Oregon Health Authority is reviewing the proposal, which includes shutting down Eugene’s only emergency room.

Inpatient Rehab and Behavioral Health are also part of the closure plan however PeaceHealth is seeking waivers from OHA to keep the units open as they phase out the Emergency Department.

PeaceHealth’s interim chief executive James McGovern acknowledged the move could leave some healthcare gaps in downtown Eugene.

Dr. Jim McGovern has been in the role of interim executive officer with PeaceHealth Oregon Network for just over a month. Here he stands in a hallway of the administrative offices at PeaceHealth RiverBend in Springfield.
Tiffany Eckert
Dr. Jim McGovern has been in the role of interim executive officer with PeaceHealth Oregon Network for just over a month.

“Replacing those services in the University District, we are reaching out to community partners to help us problem-solve,” he said. “So, we need the community and the community services to step in and assist.”

McGovern said the plan is to transition Emergency Department services to PeaceHealth’s RiverBend Medical Center in Springfield, where he expects about half of the displaced caregivers to take new jobs.

In addition to declines in patient volume and financial losses, McGovern said “short staffing” forced the decision to consolidate Emergency Department services with those at RiverBend.

“So, part of this is working towards consolidating staff as well as services so that we can really focus on having one ED being well functioning [rather] than trying to support two,” said McGovern.

Officials say they intend to continue providing behavioral health services there. At least until the community has a sustainable alternative.

PeaceHealth asserts only about two-thirds of patients at the downtown emergency room arrive for routine medical care. McGovern said the other one-third seek behavioral and mental health services.

“We have been having conversations with the Oregon Health Authority,” he said. “So, there’s a number of waivers and other things we need to do in concert with them in order to keep our BHU orBehavioral Health Unit and other services open, while we close the Emergency Department. We fully intend to keep the Behavioral Health Unit there as long as we can.”

McGovern said instead of an emergency room, patients experiencing a mental health crisis would be better served by theCrisis Stabilization Center planned for Lane County.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.
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