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Re: low-cost lab tradition ends

Letters to the Editor

 


I was very disappointed several months ago when I read that the annual low-cost blood screening would no longer be available at Coulee Medical Center during National Hospital Week and our local health fair. My husband and I have found this to be a convenient yearly event in which we could participate to help detect any health problems before they become a major concern, as well as fulfill the required screening to update prescriptions. I question CCH Administrator Scott Graham’s interpretation of the law that governs public hospital districts. He stated, “It has been brought to our attention that state regulations prohibit any sort of ‘reduced fee gifting of services.’” Lincoln Hospital in Davenport still conducts the blood screening tests as part of their Health Fair, and if it was unlawful, they wouldn’t be doing it. So I drove to Wilbur this week to have the comprehensive blood testing done for the grand sum of $35! The lines were long, but the Wilbur Clinic staff was friendly and made it as painless and speedy as possible. To them I give my thanks!

I understand that making this new medical center profitable is important to the hospital administration, but it would seem that the reduced fee blood screenings would increase doctor visits and follow-up care, which would help the bottom line. Since my job is marketing, I understand that sometimes you need to run “specials” to increase customer buy-in and usage of products and services.

Considering that I had one blood draw and lab work in February 2012 that cost $564, I can understand why Mr. Graham would prefer that we all pay the engorged pricing structure for lab testing that has been set up at our new hospital. That same battery of blood tests would have cost $145 had I gone to PAML in Spokane, but I was charged almost four times as much for the convenience of doing it locally. Even if I had had each test run individually in Spokane, I still would have only paid a total of $240! What Mr. Graham’s ruling means is that many people will be unable to afford to have lab testing done locally, so they will either not have it done at all, or they will have to go elsewhere. So was the decision to do away with the Health Fair lab tests a wise decision on the part of our hospital administration? I think not! I am sure Mr. Graham thinks that we can just let our health insurance bear the exceptionally high cost of lab work done at our hospital, but that attitude has contributed to the health care crisis we now have in the U.S. And, once insurance has paid its share, we still have to come up with the rest -- in my case $454. Perhaps if we didn’t have such high administrative costs at the hospital, and focused more on the actual health care being provided, our health care costs wouldn’t be so elevated. Perhaps administration at the new hospital could be reduced, and more emphasis be put on actual patient healthcare.

I absolutely love the caring providers we have at our clinic and hospital. I would never wish for us to not have our hospital as I feel it is an absolutely essential facility for our entire area. However, I have become more and more discouraged as I see the exorbitant pricing for things like lab work, x-rays, and other diagnostic testing. I WANT to handle my health care with local providers, including my lab and x-rays. I WANT to see friendly, familiar faces when I have to have lab work done, and I have never had a complaint about any of the lab techs employed by our hospital. They are exceptionally professional, caring individuals and have absolutely nothing to do with the financial decisions being made by the current administration at our hospital/clinic.

We have a beautiful new medical center, and I understand that we need to help pay for it. But will the current administration shoot themselves in the foot by making it too expensive for local residents to avail themselves of its services? Will we end up losing the facility because nobody can afford to use it? Our hospital has been designated a Level IV Critical Access Hospital but does that mean that we should need to have a platinum card to afford routine community health care?

Sheryl Moore

Grand Coulee

 

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