February 10, 1998 in Nation/World

Competition Crowds The Silver Valley

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Finding a new manager is just the latest challenge facing Shoshone Medical Center.

The biggest problem remains the existence of a second Shoshone County hospital - Silver Valley Medical Center, according to industry leaders.

They shake their heads over the fact that the hospitals - eight freeway miles apart and both tax-supported - vie for patients in a valley with 16,000 residents.

This is a time of consolidation and cooperation even in populous areas, said Steve Millard, president of the Idaho Hospital Association.

“It’s absurd to have two hospitals in the Silver Valley,” said Millard. “There’s still the mining community mentality that every little town has to have its own fire department, its own hospital.”

Before the local smelter and many of the mines closed, and before medical technology became so costly, there was money to support hospitals at both the east and west ends of the valley.

But for nearly two decades, both have been struggling. The Silverton hospital closed for a while. The two hospital districts have talked of eliminating duplication, but nothing has come of it.

Meanwhile, because neither hospital qualifies as a “sole-source provider,” the valley loses several hundred thousand dollars a year in Medicare reimbursement. The federal health-care program pays about 4 percent less when there’s another hospital within 30 miles, said Shoshone Medical Center board chairman Jerry Cobb.

The continuing rivalry is the reason that Coeur d’Alene’s Kootenai Medical Center isn’t eager to operate Shoshone Medical Center.

“Until they can arrive at some vision of how they want things to work out in their own Valley, it would be difficult for a third party to come and manage part of the health system,” said KMC chief executive Joe Morris.

, DataTimes MEMO: See related story under headline: High-stakes battle over health care

See related story under headline: High-stakes battle over health care

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