Hospitals clash on clinics

OLYMPIA – Providence St. Peter Hospital officials plan to open a family medical practice one mile from Capital Medical Center in west Olympia, angering officials with that hospital because they are days away from opening a family practice of their own.

Capital Medical Center Chief Executive Michael Motte, who learned about St. Peter’s plans last week, called the hospital’s actions “predatory” and an unnecessary duplication of medical services. Capital Medical Center’s family practice is at the hospital, just west of Yauger Way.

“It’s not appropriate when we’re trying to do the same thing,” Motte said Friday.

Providence St. Peter Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Reynolds-Sanchez confirmed that St. Peter has plans to open a family medical clinic in west Olympia this year. A Providence St. Peter Hospital administrator could not be reached for comment.

“There is overall demand for primary care in Thurston County, and the clinic would just be meeting that need,” she said. Other details about the planned clinic are not known, Reynolds-Sanchez said.

Olympia’s Community Planning & Development Department issued a building permit to Providence Family Medical on June 19 for tenant improvements to commercial space at 1217 Cooper Point Road S.W., planning permit specialist Paula Smith said Friday. The estimated value of the tenant improvements is $321,000, Smith said.

Capital Medical Center is nine days from opening renovated hospital space for Olympia Family Medicine, a longtime South Sound family practice group that was acquired by the hospital in January, co-owner Dr. Stephen Albrecht said. Ablrecht is the medical director of Olympia Family Medicine and a Capital employee.

Motte said the hospital has planned the renovation since March 2008 and began work this year on transforming 7,800 square feet on the hospital’s second floor into 24 new patient rooms – all at a cost of $1.3 million. Olympia Family Medicine has four doctors and a nurse practitioner and will have room to grow to a staff well beyond that figure, Albrecht said.

Albrecht said he understands the hospital’s concerns about Providence’s plans, but at the same time, “any expansion of primary care is a good thing.”

The perceived duplication of medical services in South Sound recently has become a hot topic for Thurston County’s two largest hospitals.

Capital Medical Center has applied to the state Department of Health to offer an elective angioplasty procedure, an application that Providence plans to testify against Friday at DOH’s offices in Tumwater.

Capital Medical Center offers angioplasties on an emergency basis but must send heart patients to St. Peter or another hospital for the elective procedure. St. Peter officials say that if Capital is allowed to perform elective angioplasties, it will take away vital funds used by St. Peter to provide charity care; Capital Medical Center officials say it would boost their hospital’s bottom line by $1.5 million a year.

St. Peter uses the money it makes on performing angioplasties to support programs such as a shelter for victims of sexual assault, hospital executive Jim Leonard told The Olympian last month.

“When you take away the offsetting balance of a revenue-producing program, it makes it that much harder to pay for those other programs,” he said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403