A big drop in the number of patients using the Silver Valley Medical Center has caused the Silverton hospital to lay off 12 employees.
“Hopefully, it’s temporary. We’ll bring them back as soon as we can,” hospital administrator David Hughes said Tuesday.
The situation is serious enough that the East Shoshone Hospital District’s board of directors has discussed at what point the hospital will close its doors. No decision has been made, Hughes said.
Eleven nurse’s aides and one business office staffer lost their jobs. Licensed and registered nurses have taken over the aides’ responsibilities, Hughes said.
Before the layoffs, the hospital employed 58.
The 23-bed medical center is located west of Wallace. It has just three inpatients this month, down from a high of 10 last year. Outpatient use is down, too.
The numbers have gotten progressively worse since January, Hughes said.
“When I talk to the doctors they’re saying ‘Our business is down, too, and our patients aren’t that sick.”’
The situation is frustrating for Hughes and the board, who have worked to recruit doctors to the community who will admit patients to the hospital.
Formerly the H.L. Day Medical Center, the hospital was closed from 1991 through 1994. It reopened to cheers among residents who wanted to maintain emergency services at their end of Shoshone County.
The hospital competes with Shoshone Medical Center in nearby Kellogg, and with hospitals in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane. Wallace-area patients who see doctors outside of the area are hurting the hospital’s chances of survival, according to Hughes.
“They say, ‘In case I have a heart attack, I want you to be there for me. But my doctor’s in Spokane,”’ he said. “You just can’t have it both ways.”
Robin Stanley, chairman of the hospital board, pointed out that the hospital has made progress. It has recruited doctors, and paid back a $140,000 debt to the state.
“We’re doing our best to save lives,” Stanley said.
Both Shoshone Medical Center and the Silverton hospital agree that the presence of two competing hospitals makes it tough for either to survive in a rural county with only 14,000 people.
“We don’t want any more range wars,” Stanley said. “We just want it to end.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: PAST Formerly the H.L. Day Medical Center, the hospital was closed from 1991 through 1994.
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