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Progress noted in hospital talks

Staff writer

Although some items were agreed to, a high-level meeting Thursday has not yet resolved a billing impasse between St. Luke Hospital and the county’s ambulance service.

County commissioner David Mueller said he thought the meeting went well but the hospital continues to contest a fee schedule set by the county and a written agreement has not been drawn up.

“We need to have a written agreement on services,” he said. “Nothing is simple anymore.”

The meeting was to iron out differences that have resulted in the hospital’s refusal to pay bills for patient transfers and emergency medical services provided in hospital emergency rooms.

St. Luke chief executive Jeremy Ensey contends the county’s policy, adopted in August, doesn’t comply with federal regulations and could jeopardize county patients.

A June meeting between Mueller, Ensey, other hospital personnel, commissioner Randy Dallke, and then-EMS director Travis Parmley became so acrimonious the county representatives called them off.

Some counties in the state don’t permit EMS employees to help in emergency rooms, he said.

“We’re trying to hammer out a good partnership,” Mueller said. “Obviously, we have to get this resolved and get on the same page.”

Hillsboro Community Hospital has paid bills sent by the county, so HCH wasn’t at the meeting, Mueller said.

Most of the talking was done by lawyers for both sides, commissioner Dave Crofoot said.

No hospital board members were present.

“We kind of forced this meeting,” Crofoot said.

County counsel Brad Jantz is to draw up a proposed agreement for commissioners and the hospital’s lawyer to review, Crofoot said.

Last modified April 12, 2023

 

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