BEND, Ore. -

The Mountain View Hospital District board of directors announced Wednesday it plans to negotiate an asset transfer agreement with St. Charles Health System -- essentially a merger that would bring the last of the region's four hospitals into the same organization.

"After assessing the health care climate and the growing needs of Jefferson County, the board decided to take this next step to provide long-term stability for the hospital and support its efforts to care for a diverse population," the two hospitals announced in a joint statement.

"Our goal is to ensure that Mountain View is a viable medical resource for Jefferson County," said Jeanine Gentry, CEO of the Mountain View Hospital District. "St. Charles is the type of synergistic partner we need to propel us through the future of health care."

St. Charles, which owns or leases hospitals and family care clinics in Bend, Prineville, Redmond and Sisters, has provided management services to Mountain View since 1998.

An asset transfer with St. Charles would allow Mountain View to eliminate duplicate resources, streamline patient care and have ready access to additional services, the two organizations said.

"This collaborative partnership is one that groups like the Central Oregon Health Council are promoting in light of recent changes to health care reimbursement," the joint statement said.

“This is the right thing to do for the regional delivery of health care services,” said James A. Diegel, CEO of St. Charles Health System. “By bringing all four hospitals under the St. Charles umbrella, health care delivery will be better coordinated and structured to deliver high quality, safe and efficient care.”

Mountain View and St. Charles are signing a non-disclosure agreement and will work through the due diligence process over the next few months, to be followed by a final decision by both boards of directors before the end of the year.

The goal of the asset transfer is to guarantee that the needs of the Jefferson County community, Mountain View and St. Charles are met by this transaction.

Janelle Orcutt, MVHD board chair, said, "The board has carefully explored this partnership. Our community has very unique needs, and we are committed to providing care that is tailored for our people. This new alliance will only help us continue to do that in greater capacity."

Mountain View will be hosting two public forums for members of the community to openly discuss the partnership with hospital leadership, board members and representatives from St. Charles.

The forums will be held on Tuesday, July 31, at 5:30 p.m. and on Thursday, Aug. 2, at 11 a.m. in the Metolius Conference Room at Mountain View Hospital.

"Our community is our family. And our family deserves the best care possible," Gentry said. "We have to work together to make this happen."

About Mountain View Hospital

Since 1967, Mountain View Hospital District, in Madras, Oregon, has been providing quality medical care to the citizens of Jefferson County. Mountain View Hospital employs more than 240 caregivers, making it the 5th largest employer in Jefferson County. MVH operates a 25-bed acute care facility and is designated as a Critical Access Hospital. Mountain View Hospital holds a management partnership with St. Charles Health System in Bend. For more information about Mountain View Hospital, visit www.mvhd.org.

About St. Charles Health System

St. Charles Health System, Inc., headquartered in Bend, owns and operates the St. Charles medical centers in Bend and Redmond, leases and operates Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville and provides management services for Mountain View Hospital in Madras.

St. Charles is a private, not-for-profit Oregon corporation and is the largest employer in Central Oregon with more than 3,000 caregivers in Bend, Redmond and Prineville.

In addition, there are more than 350 active medical staff members and nearly 200 visiting medical staff members who partner with SCHS to provide a wide range of care and service to our communities. For more information, visit StCharlesHealthCare.org.