Three Rivers Health Link: Issue 1, February 2022

We are pleased to present the first issue of our new community newsletter, Three Rivers Health Link!

Below are the links for the English and Spanish versions.

If you as a member of our hospital district would like to suggest content ideas for the Provider Corner or anything else, please feel free to contact our Business Development Coordinator, Jennifer Best:

Phone: (509) 645-3347
Email: media@trhospital.net
Website Contact Form: Click Here

Three Rivers explains COVID-19 testing process

BREWSTER, Wash. – Residents needing COVID-19 tests may have a longer wait.

Three Rivers Hospital offers non-urgent COVID-19 testing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The demand for tests fluctuates, so the hospital has been notifying patients that results may not come in until 48 to 72 hours later.

“We are urging everyone to please plan ahead when they need to travel,” said Business Development Coordinator Jennifer Best. “Check with your airport and airlines regarding their requirements for testing. Some have extended the testing window to 72 hours before your flight, and you also need to keep in mind how long it could take for results to come back.”

Best added that some airports, such as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, offer on-site testing. However, there could be fees and other requirements to be mindful of.

Although the holidays are over, that turnaround time has not yet lessened.

A Quest Diagnostics representative picks up send-out tests by 5 p.m. each weekday from the hospital and transports them to its laboratory in Seattle. However, the same laboratory also accepts samples from surrounding states in addition to healthcare providers throughout Washington.

“We’re told Quest accepts several thousands of samples every day, and they are run in batches,” Best said. “Because of the workflow involved there, it’s also impossible to request that they pull out one sample to run faster than all the rest.”

Those needing a travel test should come to the hospital’s main entrance between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, where they’ll be asked to check in and complete the required paperwork before testing. Three Rivers Hospital is located at 507 Hospital Way in Brewster.

Residents who have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should call the Three Rivers Family Medicine clinic for screening before getting tested, at (509) 689-3749. The clinic staff helps patients complete some intake paperwork over the phone and provides directions to the private testing area.

For non-travel testing, Director of Ancillary Services Jeremy Vandelac advises testing about 2-3 days after developing symptoms, or five days following an exposure. This may help ensure more accurate results.

Due to short supply, the hospital reserves its rapid tests and in-house PCR tests for ER patients needing transfer, inpatients, and those presenting severe symptoms.

Non-urgent questions about the testing process at Three Rivers are best directed to covid@trhospital.net to keep phone lines open, but residents can also call the hospital at (509) 689-2517. Three Rivers also provides updates online at https://threerivershospital.net/covid-19-information/.

Three Rivers seeks extension of one-year levy

BREWSTER, Wash. – Three Rivers Hospital is seeking renewal of the one-year levy approved by voters last year.

Three Rivers has used the current levy, which passed with a combined 71 percent in Okanogan and Douglas counties, to help offset the cost of maintaining emergency services 24 hours a day, all year round. The approved cost was 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The hospital is not requesting an increase, according to CEO Scott Graham.

“We are requesting that it be extended for another year at the same rate,” he said. “This revenue has been tremendously helpful to our hospital during the pandemic. It has helped us continue providing this critical service to our district during a time that has been economically uncertain for a lot of rural hospitals like ours.”

If approved, the estimated annual tax for a home valued at $200,000 would be $66 per year.

Purpose for Property Tax Revenue

Among other operational costs, the revenue is used to pay for round-the-clock staffing with board-certified physicians through a contract with ERx Group, LLC.

“This has been a successful arrangement for about seven years, and we have expanded their contract recently to include inpatient coverage, as well,” Graham said. “This provides a more stable consistency of care for our patients, from the time they’re seen in the ER to their stay in Acute Care.”

When to Vote

The levy proposition is on the August 3 primary ballot. Ballots should be in mailboxes by this Friday, which is when the voting period begins.

“Our district’s support during these extremely trying and unprecedented times has been overwhelming. Thank you,” said Board Secretary Leslie McNamara. “I love our community and the opportunities we have to offer valuable and reliable health care.”

“Three Rivers Hospital has saved lives of people who are very dear to me. We are fortunate to have quality care close to home,” said Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Munson.

Where to Get More Information

Residents with questions about the levy proposition can contact media@trhospital.net, or call 509-645-3347.

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

Commissioner McNamara earns governance certification

Vicki Orford

Three Rivers Hospital commissioner retiring from board

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.