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Posted on Nov 6, 2014

At what cost?

Does Quincy need a hospital? Can Quincy afford a hospital or is there a better solution to this financial mess we find ourselves in?

Quincy needs a medical facility no question. We are a growing and expanding community and, as such, ensuring timely medical care is as important as a well-staffed and trained fire and police department. But at what cost?

Hospital CEO Mehdi Merred has stated the Quincy hospital is a busy trauma center, especially during concert season, so maybe that is what we as a community should be looking at.

The Quincy hospital will never be able to offer the diagnostic or staffing that is available in Wenatchee or Spokane. The equipment is just too expensive and a hospital needs a constant rotation of patients to fill the beds.

What is happening now is a patient goes through a triage and then is transported to Wenatchee for follow-up care and further treatment. That’s about all Quincy will ever be able to offer. It’s not bad. It has and will save lives and offers the community a safety net, but a fully staffed and operational hospital I don’t see anywhere in the near future.

So what do we do with a $4.5 million debt?

I suggest the district begin looking for a profit or nonprofit medical organization to purchase this entity. Start looking at aligning our facility with Samaritan in Moses Lake or Confluence Hospital in Wenatchee, or some other organization.

I think a 24-hour walk-in clinic or urgent care facility would be a good fit for this community. We need a place where a person can go be evaluated, stitched up if needed, triaged and then sent, if needed, to a hospital for continued treatment.

I have not read anywhere that things will change if the levy passes and the city throws $1.5 million at the problem.

Where’s the business plan that keeps this from happening again?

A dollar added to ticket sales, split three to four ways can help, but will not do the job.

Why would a loan from the city be repaid when one from the county is not?

With the current levy request, we taxpayers are repaying the county for a loan; we aren’t gaining on the financial drain of supporting this hospital.

Relaying on tax payments from construction will only last as long as construction continues. Then what?

Why are we paying for an off-site physical therapy site downtown? The hospital purchased the old Friends church several years ago. I was told the building is being used as a meeting room and storage. Wouldn’t it have made better sense to bring the physical therapy back to the hospital campus, regardless if some remodeling needed to be done? By now we should have been making a profit or a larger profit then paying rent and utilities every month.

All I’ve read is this hospital will continue to be supported by taxpayers for the foreseeable future. That’s not a business plan.

I spoke with the Grant County treasurer and found out that this county has seven hospital districts – the most in the state – with Mattawa and Soap Lake also on warrants. However, none have the population or tax base that Quincy does.

The hospital in Grand Coulee, a city with no industry, surrounded by government property that pays no taxes, has been doing fine with no warrants outstanding. I was told that they may have to go on warrants this year, but are working on a plan to avoid this.

We have been told that bad debit, charity care, the concerts and the government’s poor scale of payments is the root cause of our problems.

Yet, Grand Coulee with the Indian Health Services, an aging population and median income jobs stays off of warrants.

Quincy, on the other hand, has seen untold growth in construction and home building and has double the population but it is $4 million in debit.

Here are some suggestions:

Present a business plan to get the hospital off the taxpayer’s backs.

Look at selling the hospital to a medical entity.

Explore converting the clinic into a 24-hour walk-in clinic and keep the ER area.

Let’s say a person comes into the clinic with a wrist that’s swollen and turning purple. No one goes directly to the ER if they walk in; only ambulance cases are a direct admit to the ER. If the clinic thinks the wrist is broken, the patient is sent over to the ER to have the wrist stabilized and then transferred to Wenatchee.

Two things just happened. A charge for the walk-in clinic and a second charge for the ER have been made. You just doubled the billable amount. Maybe the taxpayers can get off the hook a little faster.

Contact the VA and see if a satellite clinic couldn’t be placed in Quincy. With all that’s going on with the VA, now may be a good time to approach this idea. The service area could include Grand Coulee, Coulee Dam, Coulee City, Soap Lake, Ephrata, Moses Lake, Othello and the Royal Slope area.

And remodel the old Friends church and charge rent. Now we have a positive cash flow.

Realize that Quincy will never be able to catch up to the technology of a modern hospital and adjust our health care to a different system accordingly.

George Nutter has lived in Quincy for 37 years. A retired law enforcement officer, Nutter served on the Quincy City Council from 1996 through 2003.

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