Requests for proposals have been sent to nine auditing firms by a panel organized to choose a firm to audit Logan Regional Hospital.

Roy Larsen, chairman of the panel appointed by the Cache Chamber of Commerce, said the auditing firm will be asked to evaluate the hospital's billing system to determine if fraudulent practices occur as charged by the Cache Mayors' Association.The association objects to the hospital's practice of raising the fees for some patients to cover unreimbursed costs of caring for Medicare and Medicaid patients and others unable to pay full costs.

The Utah Hospital Association says the practice is common throughout the country.

Hospital officials proposed the audit as an alternative to a grand jury investigation recommended by the mayors.

Larsen said the panel rejected a demand by River Heights Mayor John Stewart, chairman of the mayors' hospital investigation committee, that the auditors be approved by his committee.

It also rejected Stewart's demand that the results be presented to the mayors group as soon as completed.

Larsen said the firm will report first to the chamber panel, so it can decide if the company has fulfilled the contracted tasks.

"The exact timing and method of presentation of the final report to the public has not been decided, but we have to maintain our independence from any group," he said.

Hyde Park Mayor Robert Balls, president of the mayors association, said he still is not convinced the audit is the way to explore the allegations, especially since it is being paid for by the hospital's parent company, Intermountain Health Care.