The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

Hospital District is progressing

 

September 20, 2018



To plan where you’re going, you need to remember where you’ve been. It’s worth looking back a bit every now and then.

Your District has accomplished quite a lot over the past few years. First and foremost, in 2014 it averted forced closure by the state and the feds over major problems with the physical plant.

When the District’s first bond measure failed, the facility was promptly red-tagged and closure was a matter of weeks off.

Fortunately, through a sort of loophole in state law, we were able to use a no-bid process for some basic construction upgrades, and eventually got a second bond measure passed to pay for the balance of the needed work.

All in all, it was a closer call than I think most members of the community realize. But we not only stayed open, we got a major facility upgrade done.

Another large accomplishment has been the District’s role in helping create the five-District regional inter-local organization now known as the Grand Columbia Health Alliance.

Though still in its early days, the Alliance has already produced tangible results, such as a member shared Compliance Officer (a huge benefit, with the literally thousands of pages of often obscure regulations hospitals must comply with or risk huge fines) and a major grant to set up a joint cardiology program, which is in process of development right now.

In future, there should be substantial savings from pooled purchasing programs and other efficiencies.

Then there is the District’s three-year membership and active participation in the Washington

Rural Health Preservation Group, an alliance of 13 small rural Districts around the state fighting to change Medicare and Medicaid (and, we hope, private insurer) payment methods so that Districts like ours are not obliged to effectively lose money on almost every patient we see.

We are one of 21 small rural hospitals around the state that are being severely underpaid; in consequence, many of those 21 are at real risk of financially forced closure in the near future unless the state legislature and the Congress do something soon.

We are not at as grave a risk as the worst-off, but no one can bleed losses forever without eventual consequences. Through the WRHAP Group, we are fighting to change that.

Financially, we have had ups and downs. Over the past four years, we have had two positive nets and two negative nets, but the four-year total is still positive; we hope to end this year somewhere around break-even.

That may not sound exciting, but it is actually quite an accomplishment, given that all small rural hospitals are struggling owing to that chronic underpayment, plus the dent in income we suffered during the extensive remodeling construction period.

Of the 21 rural Districts mentioned above, we stand relatively well off, but only relatively (six have chronic negative nets and none have nets sufficient for long-term viability).

There’s more to say, but space is limited. But all in all, it is a track record your District can be proud of.

 

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