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ARLINGTON — Cascade Valley Hospital’s board of directors has signed a letter of intent to affiliate with PeaceHealth, a nonprofit health system based in Vancouver, Wash.

Snohomish County Public Hospital District No. 3 still will own the land and buildings and will lease them to PeaceHealth, which will operate the 48-bed hospital and its five clinics.

Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon is in separate negotiations with PeaceHealth. The Cascade and Skagit boards voted in August to affiliate with PeaceHealth. Island Hospital, which had planned to choose the same partner as the other two local hospitals, instead voted against an alliance and is continuing to investigate its alternatives.

While Skagit Valley Hospital is pursuing a midlevel affiliation with PeaceHealth that would allow it to retain some autonomy, Cascade’s board went all in, unanimously choosing deep integration, much as United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley did previously.

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PeaceHealth announced earlier this year its own strategic partnership with UW Medicine, which local hospital officials said made PeaceHealth more attractive as a suitor.

When the hospital board was still weighing a partnership decision for Cascade, PeaceHealth’s ties to the Catholic church prompted pushback from Cascade’s patients and even some of its own employees.

“We are not faith healers. We are scientific healers,” Laura Hall, a critical-care nurse at Cascade Valley Hospital, said at one public hearing. “We are providing care, nonjudgmentally, to anyone who needs it.”

Her comments echoed those of others who feared a Catholic partner would try to restrict access to services such as abortion or assisted suicide.

As Cascade Valley, Skagit Valley and United General hospitals each gear up for partnerships with PeaceHealth, Island Hospital in Anacortes remains the only hospital in the region that isn’t partnered with a faith-based organization.

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