Did you know that Forks Community Hospital, the three associated Rural Health Clinics, West End Outreach Services, Long Term Care, and Ambulance Services, are not for profit? What this means is the hospital is a part of the community and the District it serves. Not for profit hospitals work to do what is best for the communities they serve instead of meeting the priorities and financial earnings dictated by shareholders.
It also means that the community may need to help subsidize programs that they find valuable to ensure they can be adequately staffed and maintained. Two programs that incur large losses each year are Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Long Term Care.
The Long Term Care facility at Forks Community Hospital has long been a vital healthcare resource for our community. The District has endeavored to keep Long Term Care operational with the highest quality of trained nurses and certified nursing assistants. However, the costs of this facility far exceed the revenue that we receive. This has been the case for many years and has been a substantial financial burden for the District.
In 2019, the Long Term Care facility lost 1.5 million dollars, and this is being subsidized by the rest of the District’s operations. We recently raised rates to close the gap, but we will not be covering the operational costs even in so doing. We will most likely raise rates again in July 2021, as we must find whatever way we can to plug the holes that are hurting the District financially. It is not merely a matter of becoming more efficient; we have state and federal guidelines that determine the structure of much of our cost, such as staffing.
The Administration of the District, along with the Board of Commissioners, continues to research every available option to keep this necessary service operational. Forks Community Hospital operates the Ambulance service located on the hospital campus. We are fortunate to have such a high caliber and professional EMS service in the West End. Our ambulances respond to over 850+ dispatches every year in a catchment area of over 900 square miles.Funding of our first-rate Ambulance services will expire in 2021 when the current EMS Levy expires.
The current EMS Levy was instrumental in providing the new capital equipment that was desperately needed. Still, it has been insufficient in covering the operating costs of the fully staffed 24/7 service. The EMS levy funds a first responder ambulance system that hires and educates EMS staff provides dollars needed for emergency medical equipment, supplies, and the vehicles essential to provide dedicated emergency response to our community.
EMS lost over $200,000 in 2019, with projected future losses to be upwards of $350,000.With these two large losses, we ask the community to help us fill the lesser of the two. We are asking for a renewal and increase of our EMS levy. In this new EMS Levy, we ask for an increase of 8 cents to 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. 100% of the levy dollars will be used to maintain our high-quality EMS. This equates to $32 in tax per $100,000 of value.
This new Levy will fully fund our EMS service’s operations and address equipment and ambulance needs over the next six years (2022-2027). 100% of funds collected will be used on EMS only.
The District is grateful for the support of our community in past EMS Levies. In order to maintain our ambulance service for the next six years, we are asking for your continued partnership through a YES vote on the next EMS Levy.
Ray Ellis Memorial Volunteers Ambulance Corps