by Doug Nadvornick & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he company that operates Spokane's Deaconess and Valley Medical Centers is considering how to achieve what company leaders call their "Big Hairy Audacious Goal." That goal is to become the top hospital in the nation for patient safety and employee and physician satisfaction by the year 2015.

"When we talked to employees a couple of years ago, this is what they wanted to do," says Empire Health Services CEO Jeff Nelson. "It's their vision."

How to get there is the big hairy question. Nelson says board members are considering four options. They could decide to change Empire's status from nonprofit to for-profit. They're considering whether to merge completely with another company or to find a partner to raise capital money for future projects. Or they may decide to keep Empire as it is.

"Once we set the goal, we thought, 'Why wait to 2015?'" Nelson says. "What would it take to get there now?"

Nelson says the board is doing its homework and, even though it hasn't set a deadline for making a decision, the process won't be indefinite.

Empire Health has scheduled five public forums to outline its options with the community: April 9 at 6 pm at NorthTown Mall; April 10 at noon at Valley Hospital's Health and Education Center; April 10 at 6 pm at the Deaconess Health and Education Center, April 11 at noon at the Deaconess Health and Education Center and April 11 at 6 pm at the Spokane Valley Mall.

Laura, or Scenes from a Common World @ Kolva-Sullivan Gallery

Fri., Dec. 6, 5-8 p.m. and Fri., Dec. 20, 5-8 p.m.
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