Officials at Logan Regional Hospital, accused of engaging in "fraudulent and exorbitant charges and other dishonest practices," will take their case to the community Monday night.
The hospital's board of trustees has invited 140 community, business and government leaders to meet at the Mount Logan Middle School "to share information regarding the issues brought forth by the Cache Mayors Association."But the 7:30 p.m. meeting will likely be one-sided. Although the 19 mayors have been invited to the meeting, they aren't on the agenda.
"It's an end run on us. It will be a one-hour meeting, during which they will present their side," said River Heights Mayor John Stewart. "Why should they limit it to a certain number and pack it with two dozen doctors who support their public view? Why not have a public meeting? I welcome the opportunity to debate them in public, but they have never agreed to that."
Hospital officials could levy the same complaint against Stewart, the association president.
Last week during the association's monthly meeting, Stewart delivered a harsh indictment of the Logan Regional Hospital and its owner, Intermountain Health Care. For months, Stewart and other Cache Valley mayors have questioned the hospital's price schedule, treatment of employees, "cost-shifting practice," and tax-exempt status.
"Last spring I considered the hospital fees to be outrageously high and totally unrealistic. After several months of investigation I still feel that way, only more so," Stewart told fellow mayors at their meeting Nov. 12. "We do know this, that because it has a monopoly situation in Cache County, charges at the Logan Regional Hospital in several categories are appreciably higher than at other hospitals - both IHC hospitals and others."
Stewart said four key words best characterize the findings of the association's investigation into the hospital's operation: "Greed, fraud, deception and hypocrisy."
Hospital officials listened to the stinging indictments in silence. Those attending the Nov. 12 meeting were denied an opportunity to respond to accusations because the hospital has not answered 20 questions posed by Stewart.
At one point, hospital representatives were asked to leave the public meeting so hospital employees could address the mayors without being identified by their employer. The press was permitted to remain.
At the close of the meeting, the mayors voted to meet with the hospital administrators to discuss the association's concerns. The meeting, however, was contingent on the hospital replying to the association's 20 questions.
Stewart said hospital administrator Charles Doane informed him last week that the questions had been answered and would be forwarded to him.
"I said then that I would be glad to arrange a meeting with the hospital administrators and the association, but I have never received the answers," Stewart said in a telephone interview Saturday. "I guess they have decided this (the public meeting) is a better way to go."
Doane said hospital administrators still are anxious to meet with the mayors "at their earliest convenience."
"Because the controversy has become so public, we also felt we needed to get a report to the community . . . The answers (to the 20 questions) will be handed out at the (Monday) meeting," he said.
Doane said lack of space prevented the hospital from opening the meeting to the public. "But there will be no discrimination. If others show up, we will welcome them there."
Stewart said he's inclined to attend the meeting "in case someone requests a response from me. I certainly don't want to evade the thing. I would just like to have it clearly presented," he said. "I don't have any personal animosity against these guys. I just think it's time the public got a fair deal at the hospital."
Stewart candidly admits that all the Mayor's Association can do is call the matters to public attention.
"Fortunately there are others, more powerful groups downstate now investigating IHC and other hospitals. Let us hope that sufficient pressure can be applied to effect the necessary corrections," he said.