Community Medical Center in Missoula

Community Medical Center in Missoula.

Missoulian photo

A proposed $10.5 million gift to the University of Montana Foundation has been withdrawn by CMC Missoula Inc., the board responsible for distributing $74.9 million in proceeds from the sale of Community Medical Center.

The money was supposed to help construct a new building, create a new physician assistant program and provide scholarships to medical students.

Instead, it appears the board will give all the sale proceeds to a yet-to-be-created foundation, the Community Hospital Legacy Foundation.

A lawyer for CMC Missoula informed the Montana Attorney General’s Office late Wednesday afternoon of the decision to formally withdraw the proposed gift, just 48 hours before a Friday deadline to approve the plan.

“Under the circumstances, CMC Missoula believes it would be prudent to take some additional time, perhaps 3-6 months, to reassess and re-evaluate the structure of the Foundation and any potential collaborations or affiliations that might help assure CMC Missoula that its long-term health care goals for the western Montana health care community will be met,” attorney Gary Chumrau wrote in a letter to the Attorney General's Office. “CMC Missoula requests that the AGO grant an extension of time for up to six months in order to allow CMC Missoula an opportunity to reassess and refine its proposal for the use of the sale proceeds.”

CMC Missoula is the legal entity that formerly owned Community Medical Center.

The nonprofit hospital was sold to a for-profit partnership between Billings Clinic and RegionalCare Hospital Partners earlier this year, and state law dictates the proceeds go to a foundation with the same health care-minded mission as CMC, serving the same geographical area. The AG’s office must sign off on any proposal.

Scott Hacker, the chair of CMC Missoula, declined to elaborate on why the proposal for the $10.5 million gift to the UM Foundation was nixed so close to the deadline.

“There was no particular reason,” he said. “We wanted to step back and let (the Community Hospital Legacy Foundaton) decide what to do with the money.”

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The money that would have gone to the UM Foundation would have helped build a new three-story, 4,360-square-foot addition to the Skaggs Building called the Community CMC Legacy Health Professions Complex.

UM President Royce Engstrom personally made the pitch to CMC about how the UM Foundation would use the money.

Peggy Kuhr, vice president for integrated communications at UM, said it's too early to tell whether plans for the addition are dead.

"It really requires re-examining, but it's too early to say what's possible," she said Thursday. "While the circumstances around the proposal have changed, that doesn't change UM's commitment to educate health care professionals in Montana who serve Montanans. We look forward to future opportunities to serve the health care needs of western Montana residents. It is our mission to be the leader of health care training in the Pacific Northwest."

Hacker didn’t elaborate on what has changed between now and when CMC Missoula devised the plan to give money to UM's Foundation, but he said the decision was unanimous.

He said the request for three to six months of extra time to reassess the proposal was submitted for several reasons.

“There was a lot going on with the closing of the hospital,” he said. “There was the whole closing process, as well as continuing to run the hospital. What we want to do is bring in an outside person – I guess you could say some form of consultant – to analyze all the different alternatives. There is the possibility of working in conjunction with an existing foundation. We need to find someone to help the new foundation in terms of developing program strategy. And assisting with this is the personnel. We have to find a director that you might need for a foundation like this.”

The extra time will allow CMC Missoula to come up with a more in-depth plan for how to use the money, Hacker said.

“It’s a unique process, starting a foundation, especially with this amount of money,” he explained. “We want to have them bring somebody in that has experience with it and help out the foundation in the formative stages.”

The AG's office on Thursday agreed to the extension and set a Sept. 20 deadline for CMC Missoula to submit a revised proposal.

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