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Prosser hospital asks city of Grandview for $133,000

GRANDVIEW - Prosser Memorial Hospital is asking the city of Grandview for $133,000 to be used as a stop-gap measure for ambulance service operations for 2007.

City council members heard the request at their regular meeting Monday night.

According to Julie Peterson, the hospital's CFO, the hospital learned late last fall that Medicare would not pay the amount equal to costs for services and, in addition, presented the hospital with a bill for $172,000 for 2004 ambulance services and another for $142,000 for 2005 services. The hospital was also notified that Medicare will only pay 70 percent of costs for Medicare patients.

Peterson said 52 percent of emergency calls are from Medicare patients.

According to Peterson, the hospital has looked at several options, including contacting Congressman Doc Hastings, appealing Medicare's decision (which they believe will fail in the fall) and reducing services by either consolidating the three stations, going back to using volunteers instead of paid staff, changing response time standards or selling the service.

According to Jim Tavery, the hospital's CEO, selling an ambulance business is extremely difficult.

"It's very risky to run an ambulance service in Grandview and Prosser," Tavery said. "We think we do a super job, but it's very costly to run this business."

The ambulance service was operated by volunteers until the hospital bought it.

Tavery said the request for $133,000 from Grandview is a one-time only request.

The hospital has asked for funding support from Prosser and Benton County commissioners and plans to ask Yakima County commissioners, as well as Sunnyside Community Hospital and Kadlec Medical Center.

Tavery said of the request, "Please consider it emergency funding for an emergency service, because that's exactly what it is."

In the future, the hospital is mulling a tax levy, but would like to see lawmakers pass a bill this year that includes a provision to return to Medicare cost-based reimbursements.

No action was taken on the matter at the meeting.

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