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PMH Board and Prineville Hospital Foundation donate money that will fund more clinic space, scholarship fund

St. Charles Prineville currently finds itself in an interesting situation due to two separate sets of circumstances emerging throughout the past year.

And on the surface, they appear to be in major conflict.

First came news that St. Charles Health System is facing significant financial shortcomings, a situation that corporation leaders attribute to rising costs to administer health care and recent state and federal legislation. Ultimately, St. Charles opted to lay off 30 caregivers while allowing others to participate in a buyout program that effectively ends their employment.

Then, this past week, due to a completely unrelated development, St. Charles Prineville announced it would receive several million dollars in donations from the Pioneer Memorial Hospital Board and Prineville Hospital Foundation. The now defunct organizations have donated about $3.5 million to go toward a clinic expansion, $1 million more for a local scholarship fund for health care education, and $500,000 to pay for recruitment and retention of medical providers for the clinic expansion.

One might look at the situation and question why the local hospital would take millions and apply it to expanding the services offered at a time when personnel cuts are set to take place because of financial setbacks. Would it make more sense to use the money to backfill the shortfall and prevent layoffs?

The answer in this case is no, and there are a couple reasons why. First, it should be pointed out that the financial struggles that St. Charles Health System faces will be ongoing. Without making cuts, or changing how business is done company-wide, the financial problems will persist and possibly worsen from one year to the next. Throwing this donated money at the problem would only delay the inevitable.

Secondly, using the money in such a fashion would fly in the face of what the Pioneer Memorial Hospital boards hoped to accomplish. PMH Board Chair Brian Barney was clear that the group wanted to contribute its remaining funds in a way that would specifically benefit health care and residents in the Crook County community. And what local health care needs, based on how the donations have been applied, is more access to clinical care in Prineville as well as more funds to help aspiring health care professionals find a way to pay for the education they need.

Yes, on the surface it seems that our hospital leaders are adding on at a time when financial challenges are forcing cuts. At a glance, it may not make sense. But a deeper dive shows that St. Charles Health System is making the correct, albeit painful, moves that could right-size the corporation for the future, while St. Charles Prineville is correctly using its one-time financial blessing in a way that will benefit the health care of local residents into the future.

—Jason Chaney, news editor

Contract Publishing

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