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Senator Murray Includes Exception in Senate Bill to Help Keep Wenatchee Valley Medical Center Open

May 15 2008

Murray language is first successful effort to exclude Wenatchee Valley from efforts to block federal funds to physician-owned hospitals

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has included language in the 2008 Senate Supplemental Appropriations bill that will exclude Wenatchee Valley Hospital and the clinics it operates from a provision in that bill that would have caused the center to restructure, merge, or close its doors. Senator Murray's language exempts hospitals that are currently 40% or more physician–owned, like Wenatchee Valley, from a provision in the bill that bars Medicare and Medicaid payments to privately owned hospitals. The language also stipulates that those clinics exempted must maintain their current level of physician ownership. 

"Wenatchee Valley Medical Center plays by the rules, provides care to all, and is the bedrock of health care in the community," said Senator Murray. “In fact, it is the only facility offering many specialized medical services in the region. There's no reason they should be caught up in a dragnet of hospitals that are exploiting the system. This exception will allow the Wentachee Valley Medical Center to continue to serve rural residents that deserve access to care."

The 2008 Supplemental Appropriations bill, which includes funding for domestic emergencies and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be voted on in the Senate Appropriations Committee tomorrow. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate leadership, Senator Murray is in a unique position to continue advocating for the exclusion of Wenatchee Valley Hospital from this and similar legislative efforts.  

“The inclusion of necessary language in the Appropriations Bill that will allow Wenatchee Valley Medical Center to continue to function as an intact entity is a stunning success,” said Dr. David Weber Sr., Wenatchee Valley Medical Center CEO and Chairman of the Board. “It is literally the future of WVMC and the patients we care for in this one moment.  Sen. Patty Murray, in her role as a member of the Appropriations Committee, was able to build on the prior strong efforts of Sen. Maria Cantwell on the Senate Finance Committee and Rep. Doc Hastings to bring this to fruition.  It is hard to put into words the deep appreciation that we feel for their efforts on our behalf.”

The Wenatchee Valley Medical Center operates eight rural clinics in the Wenatchee Valley. The provision to end federal support for physician-owned hospitals included in this bill, without the exception Murray has included, would have spelled the end of many of those clinics.

"For families in the Wenatchee area these clinics are the only way to access health care without driving for many miles," said Senator Murray. "I'm committed to ensuring that their needs are not ignored."