The Cache County Mayors Association is out for blood, and it's Logan Regional Hospital's blood they want.
Accusing the hospital of "fraudulent and exorbitant charges and other dishonest practices," the association Saturday night will devote a large part of its monthly meeting to its continuing investigation into the hospital's financial policies, particularly the fees charged.But the debate will likely be one-sided.
Despite several requests to be put on the program, Logan Regional Hospital officials won't be given time to respond to allegations, mostly because they refuse to give the mayors information they promised the association in May. Logan Regional Hospital is owned by Intermountain Health Care, the largest Utah health care conglomerate.
"It's frustrating. It's a public meeting, yet they have indicated their agenda is full so we are not invited," said Thomas A. Welter, senior assistant administrator of Logan Regional Hospital.
River Heights Mayor John Stewart, association president, said he's asked the hospital administration to respond to 20 "specific, pertinent" questions regarding the hospital. The hospital brass, he said, promised a response last May. But the mayors have yet to receive one.
"Why then should the mayors give you or your associates time in their meeting when you refuse to cooperate in our investigation?" Stewart said in a Nov. 5, 1990, letter to hospital administrator Charles Doane. "We are not interested in providing a forum for you to do a cover-up, whitewash job on unacceptable policies and practices at the hospital."
He continued, "I would be pleased to have you meet with the mayors if you would first provide the information on the hospital that I requested."
Welter said the hospital administration has put together a response to the 20 questions and wants an opportunity to share it with the 19 mayors.
Robert Sorenson, chairman of the hospital's board, in fact, intends to attend Saturday's meeting, where he will request a special meeting of the board and the mayors "to discuss the issues that have been brought up in letters," Welter said.
But Stewart remains confident of the truth of his accusations against Logan Regional Hospital.
"I have accused you (the hospital) of fraudulent and exorbitant charges and other dishonest practices. I have made these charges in the press, on the radio, in your board meeting, in my meeting with you, and in our mayors' meeting, as well as in many private conversations.
"Now, if these charges are not true and not justified, then you have an excellent ground for a defamation suit against me and ought to pursue it. If the charges are true, then you and your board owe it to the public to acknowledge the truth and proceed without delay to make the necessary corrections."
Stewart told the Deseret News that during the past few weeks he has been deluged with calls from people who want prices to be reasonable - something they can handle. "The hospital is robbing people who have insurance, and robbing the others of their self-respect," he said. "If they charged reasonable fees, they wouldn't have all the charity cases they are claiming."
The investigation by the mayor's association comes on the heels of concerns about the hospital's tax-exempt status raised by Cache County Attorney Gary McKean. McKean and then-Cache County Assessor Lynn Balls both recommended to the Cache County Council that Logan Regional Hospital be required to pay 1990 property taxes. In reports to the council, the men said the hospital's volume of charity care was not large enough to warrant a property tax-exemption.
The council voted to give Logan Regional Hospital a tax-exemption anyway. But McKean told the Deseret News county officials continue to be concerned about how much charity Logan Regional Hospital really is providing the Cache community.