Brookings, health district at odds over debt relief

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer August 15, 2012 10:22 am

No emergency room, no debt relief.

That’s the roadblock for the Curry Health District after meeting to discuss options to achieve both those goals.

The health district wants the city to waive the money it owes the city – $467,000 – or reduce the percentage rate it pays on that money, currently 9 percent, the maximum allowed by state law. 


Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman met with health district interim CEO Tom Troy earlier this month to discuss the loan, which was accrued in System Development Charges (SDCs) in connection with the construction of the clinic on Fifth Street in 2010.

Troy made a “brief suggestion” in that meeting that if the city would forgive the debt, the district could in return provide city employees physical exams, imaging services, mental health consultations and immunizations.

“I told him I didn’t see how it could work,” Milliman said. “The city has purchased insurance for its employees, we pay a premium through a group plan that has a payment schedule. The other concern is that it would be a benefit that city employees receive that no one else receives. There’s a number of legal issues that’d need to be explored that hasn’t been done.”

Now the district has asked the city if it could reduce the percentage rate the district pays on that loan.

Health district officials said they are also willing to work to change the law against free-standing emergency, not now permitted in Oregon – if the city assists with their financial concerns.

But city officials have heard that before.

Milliman said McMillan reported numerous times that the district was pursuing a change in state regulations to allow the district to operate an emergency room here, possibly by having the Brookings clinic be considered as a satellite of the hospital.

Troy placed a call to state officials early last month to determine what the regulatory burdens are. He has yet to receive a response, he said.

“This is complicated,” he said. “And we want to respect that the state takes its time and is careful and competent.”

He said that he will pass a status report on to Milliman when he gets word from state officials.

This isn’t the first time the city and health district have been at an impasse.

The plans originally were to have the Brookings clinic operate as an urgent care facility until it could get licensed by the state and annex Brookings into the health district. Nothing has come of that.

Milliman said that, while the district management originally supported the idea that an annexation of the city into the health district would occur only after an ER certificate was issued by the state, the district’s attorney objected.

And there were voters to consider.

The district proposed any annexation be voted on by voters currently in the district boundaries and voters in the area proposed for annexation, which included the city and the surrounding unincorporated area – Harbor. But city officials were concerned that, if the issue were turned down in the city but approved in unincorporated areas, the city could be annexed over an objection of a majority of its voters.

This never got resolved, Milliman said.

The health district cannot build a hospital and emergency room here without losing its Critical Access status, which states that such facilities must be at least 35 miles from any other hospital. Brookings is 25 miles from Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City and 28 miles away from the Gold Beach