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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Free medical services soar at region’s hospitals

They have given away nearly 50 percent more care this year

Spokane hospitals have given away $53.3 million worth of medical care to the poor during the first nine months of this year as job losses and wage and benefit cuts affect more people.

During the same time period last year the hospitals had recorded $36.3 million of charity care.

Most discounted care is borne by Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, the region’s largest hospital. So far this year Sacred Heart has given away $30.4 million in charity care, a number that outpaced expectations and led executives to ax programs and lay off dozens of employees.

At the same time, Deaconess has provided $5.4 million in charity care this year.

And yet the numbers released by the Washington State Department of Health also show that Deaconess has so far lost a little over $200,000 this year. Sacred Heart, by comparison, has earned $30.1 million.

The numbers show that Sacred Heart continues to outpace its smaller rival, even as Deaconess aligns more closely with Rockwood Clinic. Both of the latter are now owned by Community Health Systems Inc., which does not normally discuss financial results of its individual hospitals. The company, publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, does give periodic updates to analysts and files quarterly and year-end corporate reports.

Deaconess and sister property Valley Hospital and Medical Center restated their financial reports this month, said Randy Huyck, an analyst with the health department.

And while the numbers show operating losses for Deaconess, the financial trends are moving upward.

The two hospitals have seen hundreds more patients, as Rockwood doctors begin referring more people in need of hospitalization to Deaconess and Valley. The hospitals also provided more charity care and are making more money.

During the first nine months of 2009, for example, Deaconess lost about $7.4 million, while Valley earned about $1.7 million. Reports for the same period this year show Deaconess has cut its losses to $207,832 while Valley has doubled its profit to about $3.4 million.

Sacred Heart has been able to keep its patient numbers up, but its partner Providence Holy Family Hospital has struggled. Patient numbers there are down and charity care is higher; so far this year Holy Family has earned $752,330 compared to $8.8 million during the same time last year.

Year-end data for the hospitals won’t be available until mid-February.

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