Guest Column: We need to save our hospital | SierraSun.com

Guest Column: We need to save our hospital

Chuck Zipkin

Tahoe Forest Hospital is at risk. The ill-advised attempt to compete on price with free-standing medical centers (Reno Diagnostic Radiology, for example) would permanently damage the hospital's financial well being.

These centers charge lower prices because they offer a single function, are accessible only during limited hours, have fewer employees, do not provide emergency services and don't accept Medical or uninsured patients.

Our acute care hospital cannot match the lower prices offered by free-standing centers and still offer the 24/7 services our community needs

Although Tahoe Forest is a not-for-profit hospital, it must have a positive balance sheet to support money-losing programs required of an acute care hospital.

Obstetrics and the Emergency Room both lose money. Both are at risk of closure if revenue is lost from the profitable programs. Where will the money come from to keep them open?

While careful examination of administrative contracts is necessary, reducing administrative and consultant salaries will lower costs by less than 1 percent of the hospital's budget and may ultimately result in lower efficiencies and quality of care.

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Lowering prices to keep more patients at Tahoe Forest Hospital rather than "off the hill" sounds good, but not if the hospital loses money on each of those patients.

The law requires that Medicare pay the lowest price offered. This means that, rich or poor, tiered pricing would not be possible.

The high cost of medical care is a national problem. The best way to deal with it locally is to stay healthy. Preventive health programs and educating the community about routine tests and procedures can help reduce hospital visits.

It's time to spread the word that mammography and colonoscopy by law are available now without co-pays or deductibles.

Yes, they are free to insured patients, right here in Truckee. We can help patients investigate the Covered California insurance exchange to see if they qualify for a federal subsidy. And we can increase the effort already underway to improve immunization rates to prevent disease.

While charges must remain consistent from one patient to the next, the business office could reduce billings for patients in need and offer payment programs.

If a hospital visit is necessary, we will have access to high quality services right here in our community, 24 hours each day, 7 days/week.

It is easy to run on a platform of "charges are too high," but what is the solution such candidates offer? What are the consequences for your health, accessibility to resources and the high quality of care we have come to expect from Tahoe Forest Hospital?

The long-term health of Tahoe Forest Hospital is at stake. Our community has voted for a state of the art, 21st century hospital. A slate of candidates that proposes competing with the Walmarts of healthcare without a full business plan for survival is acting irresponsibly. Save our hospital.

Vote for Chuck Zipkin for Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board.

Chuck Zipkin MD, is a Truckee resident and a candidate for the Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board of Directors.