Andrew Bair, CEO of Curry Health Network, is still trying to get the word out that the north end of the county will not be left behind if he obtains permission to divide the number of hospital beds between Gold Beach and Brookings.
He approached the Curry County Board of Commissioners Wednesday to ask for a letter of support for a proposal to split the number of beds between the hospital in Gold Beach and the urgent care facility on Fifth Street in Brookings
City officials in Brookings asked the commissioners to consider a similar letter earlier this month, but the commissioners tabled the issue, ultimately deciding it would be better if the hospital, and not the city that would be positively affected, requested the support.
"We feel Brookings needs assistance, and we're building a hospital in Gold Beach," Bair said. "These are two separate tracks. Whatever we're doing in Brookings doesn't take away from that, doesn't take money away from that, but it's something I hear over and over and over."
The 'big dog' and taxes
A subcurrent beneath the discussion is the feeling of many in the north end of the county that Brookings, with the larger population, is trying to "take over" public services, including the airport and hospital. The city is not inside the hospital district boundaries, which extend from Pistol River north and east to the county line near Agness.
But the issue, Bair said, is one of citizens' health.
There might be an airport just up the hill from the Fifth Street clinic in Brookings, but medical aircraft cannot use it to transport patients to Medford or Portland. Patients can only be stabilized and transported from recognized emergency rooms, which means they might go to the urgent care facility, but they need to be driven to Crescent City or Gold Beach and from there can be taken by air to a facility of higher care.
Another issue is that Brookings is not in Curry Health Network's taxing district, but Bair said he wants to address the needs of the community first.
"Until they have something other than a physician's office," he said, "it's a little too early to talk about (inclusion and paying taxes into the district.)"
Having the urgent care facility named as a remote hospital will reduce time getting patients to definitive care and thus cut costs and save lives, Bair said.
And he discounts the perceived territoriality.
"The issue in Brookings," he said, "is that it is the biggest community in the state without services. Citizens are using it as an emergency room - it's the closest thing they have."
Brookings residents have two choices when it comes to hospital and emergency services. They can go 25 miles north to Gold Beach, or 25 miles south - on a straighter route - to Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City.
"That community needs to have an ER," Bair said. "You can't have an ER without having in-patient beds. Curry Health Network is in a position to address their issues: They need help, the network would benefit by rolling them into the district under remote hospital status, and we'd gain economies of scale."
It would be highly unlikely, Bair added, that the urgent care facility in Brookings will become a fully accredited hospital.
"If it became a hospital without Curry Health Network or Sutter Coast (sponsoring it), it would dilute the market to the point all three would suffer substantially and not be viable," Bair said. "It's a very complex issue we're working with. It's a tough tightrope to walk."