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Quincy hospital stiffed by fans at Gorge shows

Administrator says $500,000 in bills unpaid

Fans watch the action during May 2013’s Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Wash. (Associated Press)
Fans watch the action during May 2013’s Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Wash. (Associated Press)
Dee Riggs Wenatchee World

QUINCY – Gorge concertgoers cost Quincy Valley Medical Center more than $500,000 in 2013, the center’s administrator said, and he is seeking financial help from Gorge operator Live Nation.

Live Nation has not responded positively to the request, administrator Mehdi Merred said.

“After the Paradiso concert, we asked to sit down with them and discuss the situation,” he said. “It was left that they are not quite responsible for the behaviors, and they were not too interested in what I had to say.”

Live Nation spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson, responding to a request for comment from the Wenatchee World, wrote in an email: “We are reviewing the situation and demands of the hospital, and we have no comment at this time.”

Concerts at the Gorge have cost the hospital money for several years but, Merred said, the Paradiso Festival in late June put center officials over the edge.

“It triggered not only our scrutiny, financially, but our frustration and our concerns,” he said.

More than 120 people visited the emergency room that weekend, many suffering from drug and alcohol abuse. One person died from methamphetamine use.

The hospital, located about 15 miles from the Gorge, usually treats nine to 10 people during a typical weekend.

Officials have determined that they spent about $100,000 in additional hospital staffing because of concerts, but have had to absorb $400,000 to $500,000 in unpaid bills.

Merred said the backlogs at the hospital during concerts are not fair to local taxpayers whose property taxes are supporting the hospital.

“I cannot guarantee the same availability of care as usual to taxpayers because we will be bombarded,” he said.

Merred is worried that the situation will get worse in 2014. Live Nation has increased its season to include not one, but two Sasquatch Festivals, one July 4 through 6.

“We haven’t had a concert there that weekend before, and that is the weekend we are already tied up with Crescent Bar crowds and George festivities,” Merred said.

But the big worry is the Paradiso Festival, scheduled for June 27 and 28. In 2012 it was a one-day festival, but it increased to two days in 2013.

Last year’s festival brought 123 people to the emergency room, with 40 to 50 of them being treated for drug and alcohol-related problems, hospital officials said.

One person, who was treated at the Quincy hospital that weekend, died at Central Washington Hospital from a methamphetamine overdose, according to the Chelan County coroner.

Merred said the financial drain is “not a sustainable condition” and he is hoping Grant County commissioners can help the hospital in some way if Live Nation won’t help.

Grant County Commissioner Cindy Carter said Friday there is no legal way for the hospital district, or the county, to force Live Nation to contribute to the hospital district. Agreements in place with Live Nation involve such things as water, sewer and sanitation but not health care.

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