In its plan to form an affiliation with another independent hospital or hospital system, Ashland Community Hospital is waiting for the return proposals of potential partners.

In its plan to form an affiliation with another independent hospital or hospital system, Ashland Community Hospital is waiting for the return proposals of potential partners.

The proposals are due back to the hospital no later than Jan. 11, said Janet Troy, the hospital's director of development, after which, its board will begin whittling down options for a potential partnership.

"We've had enough interest expressed that we're confident we'll be able to find a partner," said Troy, although she declined to name any specific organizations.

As of now, she said, the hospital hasn't received any proposals back. Interested organizations are expected to respond with a proposal for partnership, since ACH sent out a confidential information memorandum expressing its interest in mid-November.

Huron Consulting Group, a Chicago-based health-care consulting firm, has been assisting ACH though the partner-seeking process.

Troy said the hospital hopes to have a partnership formed by May or June 2012.

"People are just in wait-and-see mode now," she said. "It's a mix of excitement and uncertainty."

The hospital's board made the decision to pursue a partnership in July to strengthen the hospital's ability to compete with larger health institutions in Southern Oregon and increase patient services.

Although she wouldn't say how many institutions ACH contacted, Troy said the hospital sent proposals to institutions within and outside of Oregon.

Mark Marchetti, chief executive officer for ACH, said the hospital's relatively small size makes it a challenge to compete with nearby Providence Medford Medical Center and Asante Health System's Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford. It's also worried that possible cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements will further strain its resources.

Because the hospital operates under the auspices of the city of Ashland, the City Council will have a hand in approving whatever lease arrangement emerges out of any alliance the hospital decides on.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.