Hospital clinics still seeing red

Open for about two years, the public health clinics of King County Hospital District No. 4 are working to reach the break-even point.

As of July 2008, the clinics have lost $587,000 for the year, but have generated over $800,000 in referral business to Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, district Administrator Rodger McCollum told the Valley Record.

Financial statements for 2007, provided by the hospital to taxpayer Herschel Backues of Fall City, show that the district’s clinics at Fall City, North Bend, Lake Wilderness, Snoqualmie Ridge, and its specialty clinics overall lost $2.2 million that year.

The best-performing clinic was Snoqualmie Ridge, while the worst-performing clinic was the now-closed Lake Wilderness clinic, which was shut down in January.

McCollum said that the district is subsidizing primary care in the clinics.

“The clinics and the hospital are about more than the bottom line,” McCollum said.

“It’s about providing health care,” he said. “They can’t be separated out by themselves.”

Hospital commissioner Kevin Hauglie told the Record that the district is serving 3,000 more people each month, thanks to the clinics.

McCollum called the clinics a long-term investment in the community. He said the clinics are busy and provide a good return on investment of tax dollars.

“It’s not just about a financial statement, it’s about taking care of people,” McCollum said. “It’s not just clinics. It’s not just the hospital. It’s the entire health care delivery system.”

McCollum said the current mix of clinics are nearing the breaking point, provide a good return on investment of tax dollars. As more people move to the community and discover the local health care, and certain services, such as X-rays, are used more, the financial picture should improve.

“Volumes continue to increase, there are more residents moving into the community, so our expectations are to operationally break even,” McCollum said.

“Our mission is to provide medical services to the community for a return on their invested tax contributions,” he said. “The clinics are a very important part of that.”

Backues, who is among vocal opponents of the hospital’s plan to build a new campus near Interstate 90, said he is amazed by the numbers.

“What is the real benefit to the Valley, of this thing existing?” Backues said. “The only thing this hospital does for the Valley is put 170 salaries into the mix.”

“If it was a private enterprise, this thing would have closed a long time ago,” Backues said. “This is all based on taxes.”

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