Officials with the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center expect to save about $1 million a year by closing their 24-hour emergency room.
That closure will happen on Aug. 4. The medical center will, however, continue to operate a walk-in clinic at its main campus but it will only be open 12 hours a day.
All ambulance trips and patients will complex needs will go to Central Washingon Hospital’s 24-hour emergency room, said Dr. Pete Rutherford, chairman and CEO of the medical center.
Currently, emergency rooms at both facilities are seeing patients brought in by ambulance and patients with complex needs. Those complex problems would include chest pain, possible stroke, seizures, shortness of breath, severe burns or wounds and complications of pregnancy.
The medical center opened its emergency room in late December 2008. A key reason, Rutherford said, was that medical officials feared that, to keep its operating license for its Wenatchee Valley Hospital, the facility might need to have an emergency room.
Without one, the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center could have looked like other specialty hospitals across the country that offered high-cost procedures but failed to provide the emergency care for all provided by hospitals with emergency rooms.
In 2008 and 2009, Congress considered several bills that would have eliminated Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for all physician-owned hospitals. That would have forced the medical center to reorganize.
Rutherford said those fears never materialized, and Congress instead passed a bill limiting expansion of doctor-owned facilities.
Rutherford said the medical center’s emergency room was not well utilized between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., “so, this year, we are on pace to lose somewhere around $1 million on operating an emergency room.”
Starting Aug. 5, the walk-in clinic at the medical center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Until that time, the emergency room will be open 24 hours a day and the walk-in clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Rutherford said no layoffs will happen as a result of the elimination of the emergency room.
Dee Riggs: 664-7147
Reporter K.C. Mehaffey contributed to this report