The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center's board of directors announced Tuesday that it has signed a nonbinding letter of intent to look at a possible affiliation with the nationwide nonprofit Banner Health, according to a prepared statement from the hospital.

“Wyoming Medical Center is a jewel, and it is vital to this community and state,” CEO Michele Chulick said in the prepared statement.

"Given the changes of our industry, the WMC Board has been engaged in ongoing work to strategically plan for the future and ensure our hospital continues to be well-positioned to care for our patients and communities into the future," Chulick said.

Likewise, Banner Health's chief strategy and growth officer Scott Nordlund said it already has a presence the state with hospitals in Worland, Torrington and Wheatland. "We believe that our shared strategies and values make the two organizations a natural fit."

The letter of intent does not commit the Wyoming Medical center to an affiliation, but rather gives it time to learn about each other and to determine whether such a relationship would advance health care in the area.

The due diligence will look at four basic issues of the hospital's strategic plan:

  • Advanced clinical coordination: The WMC intends to protect its employees and maintain a strong physician community. The board also intends to expand its services and maintain its status as a regional trauma center.
  • Improved business infrastructure: The hospital will continue to invest in innovated technologies and the training of its work force.
  • Long-term commitment to the community for quality health care: Local, high-quality health care is key to Wyoming's attractiveness for quality of life and business.
  • Local customization and respect for the hospital's history and who it is: The WMC is Casper's only full-service nonprofit hospital

The hospital earlier had announced that it was exploring whether such an affiliation would make sense when it unveiled its strategic plan about the future of health care in the region,

The quiet period of mutual due diligence is expected to last several months, though the hospital expects to have more details to share in the spring, Chulick said.

“We remain committed to advancing the health and wellness of our region and community to ensure the highest-quality healthcare access for years to come.”

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The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center Inc., was formed in 1986.

Until then, it was known as the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County, which was owned and operated by Natrona County. After the creation of the WMC, the county continued to own the physical plant of the hospital. The WMC leases the property from the county to perform health care. The WMC's rent, in effect, is to maintain the value of the physical plant and provide care for the indigent and prisoners at the county jail.

A five-member board of trustees -- called the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County -- is appointed by the Natrona County Commission and oversees the WMC's lease of the county's property.

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