Three Rivers Hospital announces one-year M&O levy proposition

Three Rivers Hospital is seeking a one-year excess property tax levy to help fund maintenance and operations.

The proposition, which appears on the April 28, 2020 special election ballot, asks voters to decide whether to approve a one-time total of approximately $750,000. The rate per $1,000 of assessed property value would be about 33 cents, to be collected in 2021.

If approved, the funds would cover some of the hospital’s operational costs, particularly the emergency room.

“One thing our communities have always agreed on is the importance of having an ER, but the reimbursement rate is lower than the cost of services,” said CEO Scott Graham. “We typically rely on revenue from our other services to help bridge that gap between the cost of providing emergency care and what we receive.”

The hospital’s Board of Commissioners approved the levy resolution during its regular meeting on February 26. Ballots were mailed to voters in early April.

Hospital district voters approved a lid lift on an existing tax levy in 2016, raising the rate from 63 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to about 75 cents per $1,000. The current tax rate is $0.739 per $1,000. With the extra funds from the lid lift, the hospital was able to invest in some significant changes:

  • Replacing the patient beds and furniture;
  • Moving the Three Rivers Family Medicine clinic next door into the former Hillcrest House assisted living facility; and
  • Moving the emergency department to the newest section of the hospital, which improved patient care workflows and allowed for the addition of a negative pressure isolation room.

A second measure on the 2016 ballot for a capital improvement levy did not receive enough votes to pass the 60 percent supermajority requirement. That levy would have helped fund a partial roof replacement project.

Property taxes paid to the hospital currently comprise about 5 percent of its total annual income. Ballots must be postmarked by 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, or delivered to a ballot drop box. There are three within the hospital district; one each in Bridgeport, Pateros, and Twisp.

COVID-19 impact puts Three Rivers Hospital in financial distress

BREWSTER — COVID-19 has not yet arrived in Brewster, but the outbreak is having an impact on the local health care system that could have long-lasting ramifications.

Over the last several weeks, Three Rivers has experienced a significant drop in the number of patients visiting the hospital. The emergency room normally services a dozen patients each day. Last week, on the busiest day Three Rivers saw seven patients. The hospital is complying with an order from Gov. Jay Inslee last week to halt all non-urgent medical procedures, and they’ve taken other measures to try to keep patients safely at home as much as possible. At the same time, the hospital is preparing for the possibility of treating patients with COVID-19 in the community. This has all added up to less revenue and more expenses for the hospital.

“Over the last few years, we’ve been able to stabilize the hospital’s finances and even begun to grow a little, but we have been operating paycheck to paycheck,” said CEO Scott Graham. “I’m sounding the alarm now with the hope that we will be able to secure additional financial resources to weather this storm.”

A Call to Action

Last week, Graham shared the hospital’s position with the Washington State Hospital Association and Gov. Inslee. This resulted in a small one-time allotment of cash that will allow the hospital to continue operations for the next month. Graham also shared the story with the American Hospital Association during a virtual event highlighting the impact COVID-19 is having on hospitals across the country, and he has shared the news with Three Rivers employees in a letter.

“We have an amazing team here at Three Rivers Hospital, one that has weathered many storms and one that is dedicated to serving this community,” Graham said. “I am committed to doing everything we can to weather this storm and continue providing health care in this community, and I hope you will join me in this effort.”

What You Can Do to Help

Community members can help by: 

  • Continuing to attend scheduled medical appointments, although they may take place via telephone or video chat instead of in the office.
  • Contact your lawmakers and share what Three Rivers Hospital means to your family.

Graham plans to continue to update the community as the hospital works to secure additional funding options to maintain health care services in Brewster. In the early morning hours of March 25, the U.S. Senate had approved a bill that would allocate $150 billion to healthcare during this nationwide crisis. Some of those funds would be funneled to small hospitals that are financially struggling, such as Three Rivers. The U.S. House has yet to take action on the bill as of midday on March 25.

Three Rivers’ COVID-19 Preparedness

Meanwhile, a team comprised of hospital administration, key leadership, and providers has been meeting weekly and attending conference calls in coordination with Okanogan County Public Health, the state Department of Health, and other healthcare organizations throughout the region to stay apprised of the COVID-19 situation as it develops. The team has taken a number of measures to help ensure patient safety and mitigate risks to visitors, patients and staff in case the virus does appear in the area.

More information about what Three Rivers and its clinic, Three Rivers Family Medicine, have been doing to address the pandemic is available at the following links:

Three Rivers Hospital COVID-19 Page

Three Rivers Family Medicine COVID-19 Page

Three Rivers Hospital OB Program Closing April 1, 2020

BREWSTER, Wash. — Nov. 15, 2019 — In response to learning that Family Health Centers will move its obstetrics services to Mid-Valley Hospital effective April 1, 2020, Three Rivers Hospital will end its own obstetrics program.

“This is the end of an era for Three Rivers Hospital,” said Chief Executive Officer Scott Graham. “We have long prided ourselves on our top-notch OB program. We’re sad to see it come to an end, but we support Family Health Centers’ choice to centralize OB services in order to keep this invaluable service available in Okanogan County.”

Family Health Centers’ medical director, Dr. James Wallace, explained during the hospital Board of Commissioners meeting on Oct. 2 that the decision was made because Family Health Centers has struggled to recruit more physicians to Okanogan County.

Three Rivers Hospital administration spent the following month gathering data, running financial analyses, and having discussions with Family Health Centers leadership and providers regarding the future of obstetrics at Three Rivers.

Based on the analysis completed, it was determined that the financial resources it would take to recruit the necessary physicians would be too significant. With this information, the Board of Commissioners determined it wouldn’t be feasible to continue OB services without the Family Health Centers physicians.

Three Rivers Hospital records an average of 90 births per year.

New ER location

Welcome to Three Rivers

Interview with Pauline Glessner former Employee and Patient

We had the great opportunity to sit down with former employee and patient of Three Rivers Hospital, Pauline Glessner. Pauline is the mother of our Employee Health Nurse, Carla Boyd. It was a pleasure to spend time with Pauline and hear her story. We hope you will enjoy spending a couple minutes with this lovely lady.

KOZI Radio interview with COO Melanie Neddo

This week our COO Melanie Neddo was feature for an interview on KOZI Radio. Melanie spoke with 2nd Cup of Coffee host Jay Witherbee about the roll of rural hospitals in our community. Melanie and Jay also discussed our Family Medicine clinic and the services we provide to the community through the clinic.

We invite you to listen and learn more about Melanie as well as some of the service we provide for you and the community.