A fine hospital, but fair competition? | SierraSun.com

A fine hospital, but fair competition?

Tahoe Forest Hospital is a property tax supported facility. Each year a portion of homeowner and commercial property tax payments flow directly to Tahoe Forest Hospital exceeding several million dollars.

Originally, this money was specifically earmarked for “the building, maintenance and operation of a quality hospital for our region and its citizens.” This has been accomplished and they continue to provide our community with a fine hospital.

Unfortunately, Tahoe Forest Hospital’s mission statement has changed. They now intend to displace area businesses and control patient access to established, local private health care providers under the guise of new programs. Specifically, since 1982 they have moved from a traditional hospital based setting to the following hospital owned off-site businesses: Pharmacy, physical therapy, childcare, skilled nursing, fitness gymnastics and occupational medicine. Their newly constructed gym and fitness facility in Truckee is directly competing with private entrepreneurs who have risked personal capital to provide service to the Truckee community.

I support fair competition and welcome any private health practice or business in our community. However, I think it is fundamentally wrong to use tax dollars to compete against and displace private business and health professionals. This appears to be the new paradigm at Tahoe Forest Hospital.

Along similar lines, Tahoe Forest’s Occupational Medicine program is aiming to become the single point of entry for all injured workers in our area. Their goal is to mandate that employers send their injured workers ” no matter how minor or severe ” to the hospital, making it the single point of entry for Worker’s Compensation/job injuries. This would change the existing system of local private physicians who presently act as the gatekeepers of medical care. If the hospital succeeds in changing the existing system, and requiring injured workers to appoint only their in-house doctors, then subsequent ancillary care would also be delivered through Tahoe Forest Hospital exclusively. Local private physical therapists, chiropractors, optometrists and podiatrists would be negatively impacted by this diversion of patients to hospital facilities.

If the hospital is allowed to establish a monopoly of medical care, local residents will no longer be able to choose their doctor or therapist. It may create an economic disaster for North Lake Tahoe. Potentially, 10 private practitioners could be displaced, leaving approximately 100 citizens unemployed, not to mention adding to our downtown vacancy rate.

Operating a successful business or medical practice at Tahoe is a challenge. Weather, traffic, road closures, construction, gasoline prices, fluctuating local and seasonal populations all pose problems unique to our area economy.

There is something morally wrong and economically perverse with the concept of a tax-supported hospital entering the mix and unfairly competing with private practitioners by eliminating choice and mandating exclusive use of hospital services. The potential of eliminating jobs and further reducing our local population is not what North Tahoe needs at this time.

Richard Bozzio, M.P.T., is based in Tahoe City.

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