June 18, 2010 in City

Deaconess owners appeal Sacred Heart expansion

Company says state wrong to allow 75 more beds
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The owners of Deaconess Medical Center have appealed a settlement struck between state regulators and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center that allows Sacred Heart to add 75 patient beds.

It is the latest development in the contentious issue that has pitted the region’s two big hospitals against each other in the fight for expansion rights.

In its latest filing with the Washington State Department of Health’s adjudicative service unit, Deaconess officials accused Sacred Heart and state officials of conducting secret meetings that led to an agreement. The settlement, Deaconess said, disregarded the state’s own methodology used to determine how many acute care patient beds a community needs.

The state certifies hospital bed numbers in part to ensure that health care providers act in the best interests of the community rather than attempting to squeeze out competitors by overbuilding.

Sacred Heart disputes the Deaconess appeal arguments and said it shared information regarding the settlement with its rivals rather than hiding facts.

State regulators initially determined that the Spokane region had ample bed capacity through at least 2016 – and even then would perhaps need an extra 17. It used those findings to reject Sacred Heart’s expansion plans twice.

Sacred Heart says its patient numbers have reached historic highs and more beds are needed to meet demand. The hospital initially proposed adding 152 acute care beds, building a larger emergency room and bolstering other services.

Community Health Systems Inc. said such an expansion would derail its own efforts to rehabilitate Deaconess. The hospital is attempting to rebound from a decade of financial problems and becoming outdated.

Although Deaconess is licensed for 388 beds, it can only accept about 250 patients at any one time.

In its answer to the appeal, Sacred Heart reasserted its initial proposal to add 152 beds.

The stakes are high as the two hospital systems fight over multiple issues while trying to prepare for health care reforms.

Sacred Heart says its 75-bed expansion will cost about $79.4 million. The hospital had hoped to award the first of four construction contracts this month.

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