Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Three Rivers Hospital staff campaigns for new facility bond

Taking their case to voters

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PATEROS – Three Rivers Hospital (TRH) staff members brought their case for a new hospital facility before the Pateros, Bridgeport, and Brewster city councils last week in their campaign to spread the word and gain voter support for the November general election bond measure.

TRH Chief Medical Officer Ty Witt, and Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Munson led the presentation by explaining that the hospital Board of Commissioners recently approved an initiative to place a bond request before the district voters to finance “a new, but modest public facility” to quote a TRH media release.

Voters will be asked to support a $72 million bond to be repaid over 30 years,

“Out district is 2,500 square miles. It’s the largest hospital district in the state,” said Witt. “Part of that is because the people who make those districts try to get somewhere between 13,000 to 16,000 people and that takes lots of square miles in our area to do that.”

Witt said that TRH serves about 6,000 households or property-paying entities.

Three Rivers has been serving the area for 75 years and has done so from the same building that over the decades has needed some expansion and remodeling,

“But even the newer main-functioning part has gotten to point where it is beyond its life expectancy,” said Witt, “and we’re worried about certain parts of it failing in the next decade, maybe even five years and if that were to happen, we would end up closing the hospital.”

Analysts calculated that it would require more than $80 million over the next 30 years to remodel the existing building. Another better option is a two-phase replacement project that will allow the hospital to keep functioning and reduce the cost to $72 million.

“When you distribute that amount over 6,000 payors for 30 years it comes to $30 a month for the average home appraised at $250,00,” said Witt. “If the appraisals are lower it may be as low at $10 a month.

“We do about $22 million of revenue every year,” said Munson. “Eighty percent of that revenue comes from the surrounding area.”

Munson added that the new facility will be about the same size as the existing 50,000 square foot building only designed and laid out better.

“It’s going to give us room to expand our primary care and our specialists that we can get to come back into the area,” said Munson. I don’t know how many you remember when we used to have cardiac folks come from Spokane and other services that we have lost over the years. Our hope is our new facility will have space and equipment for them.”

Electrical issues are another issue with such an old building.

“The existing hospital was built before computers were around,” said Witt. “The electrical usage and the way we heat it was not designed for modern functions. We don’t operate like it was 50 years ago, we use the same equipment that is used at the University of Washington.”

Three Rivers currently performs in three specialized fields, all gynecology, all general surgery and all orthopedics, said Witt. Once known for its obstetrics (OB) services, those were shifted to Mid-Valley Hospital when cost issues, a shortage of doctors, and a location for central to the county made Mid-Valley a more accessible option.

Among the services TRH hopes to recruit are cardiology, urology, podiatry, ophthalmology, pain medicine, dialysis, and wound care.

Voter approval of the bond levy should also eliminate the need for the special one-year operational levies that have been renewed recently.

TRH is a critical access hospital that serves about 3,500 patients in the emergency room every year.

“That’s saving lives every day, right here,” Witt said.

Munson explained that the hospital pays $1.7 million per year have ER physicians on staff 24/7. The one-year levies that voters have approved help cover those ER expenses.

“We get reimbursed based on our costs,” said Munson. “The new building is going to change (increase) our reimbursement structure so much that it should offset the revenues we receive from the one-year levy.”

“The real question for the voters is whether they want to continue to have a hospital in Brewster or are willing to drive to Omak, Chelan, or Wenatchee,” Witt said.

Mike Maltais: 360-333-8483, michael@ward.media


 

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