Ashland Community Hospital has received five proposals from outside hospitals and hospital systems interested in forming a partnership.

Ashland Community Hospital has received five proposals from outside hospitals and hospital systems interested in forming a partnership.

The hospital won't reveal which organizations are interested until its board of directors has an opportunity to review the proposals at its next meeting, Jan. 24, said Mark Marchetti, ACH chief executive officer.

He said the board will review the proposals but no decisions will be made at the meeting.

"I can say it's an assortment of regional and national organizations," Marchetti said, "but there is a great deal of analysis and discussion that will need to take place before any decision is made."

Marchetti said the hospital's board likely will whittle down its options to three or fewer potential partners, and then move forward with more in-depth negotiations. A final decision isn't expected to be made until May, he said.

"We defined a process in midsummer, and we are working through it well," he said. "I'm convinced that when this is all said and done, we will find a relationship that benefits both our future partner and the hospital."

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.

The Confidential Information Memorandums that ACH sent out last November, when it began seeking an alliance, were due back from interested parties by the end of business Tuesday. Initial estimates were that the hospital would receive four to six proposals, said Janet Troy, the hospital's director of development.

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

The board decided 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.

Marchetti said the hospital's relatively small size makes it a challenge to compete with 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.

The hospital took on a $9.4 million Medicare shortfall during last fiscal year, which is the cost it absorbed above what Medicare reimbursed, he said.

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