The addition of new, for-profit hospital in Casper could force cuts at Wyoming Medical Center that would ultimately cost lives, officials said.
Rumors of a third hospital, which have circulated for weeks, made their way Monday to the Natrona County Commission, which passed a resolution warning against “excess hospital development.” The vote came after top officials at WMC said revenue loss from a new hospital could
put their trauma and cardiac programs at risk.
“If we are not offering these procedures because we can’t afford to support the massive infrastructure of physicians and equipment and facilities, people are going to die,” said WMC Chief Medical
Officer Dr. Carol Solie. “It is that black and white.”
Medical center leaders met with commissioners for nearly an hour to share their concerns. Neither they nor the commission offered any firm details on the third hospital. But according to rumors discussed at the meeting, it would be a 10-bed specialty facility at least partially owned by a group of local physicians.
No one representing the hospital project spoke at the meeting. Physicians who are rumored to be involved in the venture have not responded to calls from reporters. Nor has anyone formally applied with the state for a license to open a new hospital in Casper, said Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti.
The federal health reform law prohibits doctor-owned hospitals from treating Medicare and Medicaid patients. If the new hospital only treats people who can pay, Wyoming Medical Center stands to lose its more lucrative patients, while continuing to care for those with complications or who can’t afford to go anywhere else, said WMC President Vickie Diamond.
That, WMC officials say, could force cuts in services like trauma care, resulting in more patients who would be transferred to out-of-state hospitals.
“The delayed medical care would affect our patients’ recovery, quality of life and chance of survival,” Diamond told the commission.
Natrona County already has 214 beds at Wyoming Medical Center and the specialty Mountain View Regional Hospital, Diamond said. On a per-capita basis, Wyoming has more beds than 90 percent of the country.
Adding more beds would bring more excess and inefficiency to the local health care system, Diamond argued. The more medical services are available, she reasoned, the more they are utilized, whether or not they’re needed.
The resolution passed by commissioners did not refer to any specific proposal for a new hospital. It states new hospital developments raise concerns about excess supply and may cause economic harm to the county’s existing health care system.
Commissioner Bill McDowell said he asked someone else to write the resolution because his message would have been even
“We don’t want you around,” he said in reference to a possible third hospital. “It’s a great risk to our community. I believe it is a huge risk not only financially, but a huge risk to the quality of care that we have in our community.”
Commissioners stressed that they support competition and the free market. But the county has an interest in Wyoming Medical Center remaining viable, noted Commissioner Rob Hendry. The county o
wns the medical center facility and relies on the nonprofit hospital to provide mandated care to those who cannot afford to pay, he said.