State shoots down proposed hospital again

It's happened again. The state of Oregon for the second time in two years shot down a proposal to put a new hospital in St. Helens, the Associated Press reports.

The decision comes six years after the Columbia Health District began planning for a new 12-bed community hospital.

While advocates of the community hospital said that it would give patients better access to care and reduce trips to Portland--which is 30 miles away--the state certificate of need (CON) coordinator said the district failed to offer new or compelling evidence that a new hospital was necessary or could be financially viable in Columbia County. A trip to Portland still would be necessary for people with time-sensitive conditions such as strokes, heart attacks and births, because the hospital would offer only a limited range of services and no surgery or maternity services, an Oregon Public Health Division CON coordinator said.

State officials also rejected the request for approval to build the hospital, because it could cost up to $45 million and might not be financially viable, the AP reports.

After St. Helens, Ore.'s only hospital closed in 1990, residents have relied on an urgent care facility that was open from noon to 8 p.m. on weekdays only. "People that have wounds or are having difficulty breathing have to go to Portland on an ambulance," hospital project coordinator Pam Powell told the Daily Journal of Commerce.

In 2004, voters in the Columbia Health District approved a tax to build a community hospital in St. Helens. Later, the district spent $4 million to acquire a site and get complete architectural and construction documents for the proposed 24,000 square foot hospital, which would also contain imaging services.

The district plans to appeal the state's decision. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

To learn more:
- read the Daily Journal of Commerce article
- here's the Associated Press story
- read the South County Spotlight article