The Washoe Med transfer from a public to a private operation is the
single biggest travesty to happen to the people of this community
over the past decade.
I will always believe that, and what made it worse is that the people
hurt the most by the resulting rise in health care costs were the
sick and the elderly who most need those costs contained.
I believe Washoe County let the people of this community down back
in 1985. At the very least, when the hospital was given away for $12
million ($60 million to $80 million below fair market value and with
$9 million left in cash reserves), it was incumbent upon the county
commissioners and the staff to get something of value in return for
What was promised in the public records was a hospital that would
create "for profit" subsidiaries, something a county hospital
couldnt do, and turn those profits into cost-saving measures
for the patients who utilized the hospital.
Health System claims the county would never again have to worry about
indigent care because, with those profits, they would take care of
them as if it were still a county hospital.
Today, they sing a different tune. Despite all the promises made to
the Nevada Legislature and the public, the county
and its legal staff did not include these as requirements in the written
It was a shameful
omission that has cost every member of this community who has used,
or ever will use, WHS.
At the very least, I had hoped that the hospital would be obligated
to take its $18 million of profit from last year's operation or its
$14 million from the sale of Sierra Nevada Labs and use it lower to
health care costs.
grand jury did recommend the WHS try to "deliver on its
to include positive and definitive steps to directly
reduce patient health care costs."
If WHS were truly a "community owned asset" as it is supposed
to be, there is no doubt that the people of this community would demand
that these excess millions be put into cost savings rather than into
capital improvements for Washoe Professional Centers as was done.
This matter has haunted my public and private life since 1988. It
was a key factor in putting me at odds with the rest of the Board
of County Commissioners during my time in office. I intend to put
the matter to rest with these final comments.
The grand jury made 14 recommendations to prevent this kind of travesty
from ever happening again:
1997 Legislature to restore the "appraised value"
formula for evaluating the sale of public assets.
(University and Community College System) Board of Regents
have doctors report their financial interests in other health
attorney general monitor the hospital as a "community
candid advance public disclosure of the facts of "insider"
diversification on the various boards to eliminate the insider
commissioners not vote on matters where they have financial
ties (Such a breakthrough revelation!)
Reno Gazette-Journal editorial
said it best: "Washoe Med: this community has been
Millions of dollars have been made and insiders have profited, but
the people who use the hospital lost.
The only value of the grand
jury report ($2 copy available at Office Depot), is for those
who carry the public trust to learn from the experience and begin
now to change those things the can be changed.
Rene Reid Yarnell is a former Washoe County Commissioner.
This guest editorial
appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal on 10-28-1995.