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Deer Park Hospital in the Dark 

by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & C & lt;/span & ommunity and elected leaders in Deer Park are mobilizing to save the Deer Park Hospital. Last Thursday, the board of Providence Health Care, which owns the 24-bed facility, voted to "discontinue hospital-based services" there, according to a company press release.





The decision motivated the "Friends of Deer Park Hospital" to meet on Monday to devise a strategy to convince Providence to keep the facility open as a hospital. And on Tuesday evening, Deer Park city leaders held a public meeting with County Commissioner Todd Mielke, school Superintendent Mick Miller and business leaders to talk about building the clout needed to get Providence to listen.





Deer Park Hospital President Tom Corley says the obvious reason to close the facility is a lack of patients.





"We average less than one acute care patient a day," says Corley. Of those who visited the hospital's emergency room last year, less than 1 percent were admitted. He says people are visiting the other medical facilities in town, including a new urgent care center and a clinic run by the Community Health Association of Spokane. Many procedures that used to require hospital stays are now done on an out-patient basis. And Corley says more of those who do need to stay overnight are asking to go to Spokane hospitals, which are often better equipped.





He believes the Deer Park Hospital would be more useful to the community providing services others aren't, such as physical therapy or counseling.





"We're doing a follow-up on the potential uses," says Corley. "We'll survey the community's health needs and then we'll try to match those needs." That survey, he says, should be finished in two or three months.





Hospital supporters like Christine Clark dispute Corley's figures and say the Deer Park facility actually serves a large geographic area in northeastern Washington.





"I worry about the 2-year-old who wakes up screaming with an ear infection," says Clark. A 20-mile drive to a hospital in cases like those is too far, she says. "How do we take care of our minor emergency needs after 9 pm? Our local ambulance service isn't equipped as well as an emergency room."





"Deer Park has achieved 'critical care' status. That's tough to get," says supporter Rob Nebergall. It would be a shame to give that up, he says, when, 20 years from now, local officials may need it again in order to build a new hospital to serve growth in the area.





Clark and others have made their case to Providence officials -- unsuccessfully -- at several public meetings. Now they're trying to think creatively about how to save their hospital.





"There was talk of creating a public hospital district," and perhaps building a new facility, says Clark. "But the chief of Fire District 4 warned they would oppose that."





So it looks like they'll have to work with Providence and the current facility, which everyone agrees is in need of a multi-million dollar renovation.





"We need to create a foundation to raise money for a new hospital," says Clark. "We've agreed to form a nonprofit organization to cement our desire to keep Deer Park Hospital open."





The board that governs Providence Health Care facilities in eastern Washington will consider the recommendation to close the hospital when it meets later this month in Seattle.
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