Oregon Advanced Imaging will continue to provide CT and MRI scans while its business partners try to settle their differences.

Oregon Advanced Imaging will continue to provide CT and MRI scans while its business partners try to settle their differences.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Schiveley issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday to keep the medical imaging center operating. Providence Medford Medical Center had requested the injunction after Rogue Valley Medical Center announced plans to step out of the joint venture, which also includes the physicians of Medford Radiological Group.

"We are pleased the judge took that action and patients will have continued access to care," said Tom Hanenburg, Providence's chief executive officer for the Southern Oregon region.

Providence sued Asante Health System, RVMC's parent company, on July 12 for breach of contract, claiming Asante had agreed by e-mail in January 2007 to extend the imaging center's working agreement for five more years past its July 29 expiration date, and then suddenly announced on July 3 its intention to withdraw when the initial five-year agreement expired.

Hanenburg and the physicians group told Schiveley in court Monday that they never would have agreed to spend $2.5 million for a powerful new MRI scanner without Asante's full commitment to continuing the joint venture. Asante officials told the judge they considered the new MRI purchase and the extension of the working agreement as independent issues.

Asante officials who testified Monday said they had never contacted any of their partners or OAI managers to contradict the notion that they had agreed to extend their participation in the business.

"It is telling," Schiveley wrote in his opinion, "that at no time prior to July 3, 2007, did (Asante) make any effort to protest the announcement of the agreement, nor any of the plans resulting from the agreement, including specifically the purchase of the (new) MRI."

OAI provides MRI scans at both hospitals, and MRI and PET CT scans at its offices in the Navigators Landing development near the Medford airport.

Schiveley wrote that the injunction "merely allows the continuation of OAI until the parties have been able to satisfactorily resolve their differences, or failing that, the court is required to make a final determination of all the issues raised by the complaint...."

Carol Flinn, executive director of OAI, said the injunction means it will be "business as usual" at the imaging center and the hospitals until one of the judge's scenarios plays out.

"We're very relieved we'll be able to continue to provide patient care," Flinn said, "and keep our staff employed and working."

Win Howard, vice president of operations for Asante, said "certainly we are disappointed by the decision. We plan to abide by the judge's order. As always our priority is providing the best possible care for our community, and we look forward to continuing that care."

Hanenburg said the court's decision reaffirms the notion that "we should put patient care first, and business matters should come second."

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.