The Good Samaritan Society — including the facility in Brookings — has merged with healthcare provider Sanford Health Medical Hospitals after receiving approval from the Federal Trade Commission last month.

Both nonprofit organizations are based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and have been pursuing the merger for about five years, said Linda “Sam” Rotz, administrator at the Brookings facility on Park Avenue.

The merger will allow the two to complement each other’s services, with hospital and clinical care offered by Sanford while Good Sam conducts home health/hospice and senior housing services.

“The theme is that we’re stronger together,” Rotz said. “They service one end of the spectrum, we service the other. We complement each other. It’s the synergy we’re going to create by this merger. The new mission statement is encompassing the best of both worlds. It’s a really good fit of healthcare collaboration.”

The merger of the non-profit, faith-based entities is anticipated to be finalized in January, and various planning phases — one of which will center around acquisition of additional facilities — will be pursued over the next five years.

Agency demographics

Both nonprofits have been in the game a long time, Rotz said, with Sanford Health in business for 122 years and Good Sam for 96 years. The Brookings campus celebrates its 50th anniversary here next year.

It has 75 full-time employees, which at one point, made it the second-largest employer in the city, behind South Coast Lumber.

According to an announcement, the merger will create a $6 billion company with 47,000 employees nationwide. Good Sam has 249 centers nationwide; Sanford has 300 clinics and 44 hospitals in nine states. Sanford Health only has one facility in Oregon, in Klamath Falls, and Good Samaritan has three; the other two are in Gresham and Eugene.

“We’re going to be big,” Rotz said.

Sanford Health pursued the merger for “growth, growth, growth,” the Argus Leader newspaper in South Dakota reported, noting that it has acquired numerous healthcare and research-focused organizations in recent years. Including Good Samaritan as part of its operations gives it a senior care services arm.

The merger will allow for further growth.

One of its missions is to “prepare for the expected increase in demand for health services by the aging baby boomer generation, focusing on well-being for the active millennial generation and proactively researching cures for our most pressing health issues impacting all generations.”

Nationwide, Good Samaritan has struggled with declining revenues in recent years, the paper reported, due to more competition from for-profit senior-care providers and declining revenue from Medicaid-reimbursed expenses.

“Health care is changing considerably,” Rotz said. “It’s driven by Medicare and Medicaid, more people are aging, and dollars can only go so far.”

Good Sam has 70 clients, including 14 in independent-living apartments on Hillside Avenue, 24 in income-eligible housing at Jerstad Manor and 35 in the nursing center on Park Avenue.

Challenges and growth

There will be growing pains at the local level, Rotz admitted.

“A lot of health care (needs) isn’t being met,” she said. “We don’t have assisted living at this property; that is a missing link. We are not residential care; we are skilled nursing care.”

It’s that shortage of healthcare options that could give the two entities a toehold to expand in Oregon.

“They’re strategically looking at communities where there’s potential,” Rotz said. “Sanford has bought up hospitals where Good Samaritans are well-established.”

Locally, the greatest need continues to be finding qualified staff, Rotz said.

“It handicaps us. And that’s the other thing: We get a really excellent candidate and then they can’t find housing.”

She said the nonprofit’s dietary director is retiring after 40 years and Good Sam has been recruiting for the past six months for their replacement.

“We found an excellent person who wanted to transfer from a center in New Mexico and couldn’t find housing,” Rotz said. “We had to give it up. Now I have another person meeting with from California; hopefully they can find housing. It’s a handicap, more than anything.

“We’re not entry-level pay scales, but Brookings is a little pricey,” Rotz continued. “We’ve played with that idea a couple different ways: We can temporarily house someone for 60 days, but is 60 days enough time for someone to find their own place? Not in Brookings. It’s a dilemma — it’s a community dilemma. It’s probably kept Brookings small like it is.”

And physicians?

“Don’t get me started,” she said. “The things that I as an administrator have taken for granted, that I assumed everyone’s doing certain things certain ways, it’s just not available here. The resources are just not here.”

She is optimistic, however, and more so with the merger.

Currently, Good Sam has six applicants — two will be selected — to attend Certified Nursing Assistant classes at Southwest Oregon Community College in January. The students will be paid while they learn and join Good Sam when they graduate.

“I don’t need as many licensed nurses as I need CNAs,” Rotz said, noting that Good Sam is the clinical training site for CNAs and the community college’s nursing program. “We hit a certain (client) capacity because we don’t have CNAs. To grow will be a new opportunity.”

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