It has been a busy week here on the health beat. We had a local podiatrist sentenced to prison time for Medicare fraud, Yakima Regional is being sued for its charity care practices, and Yakima Memorial is seeking an “alignment” or “affiliation” or “partnership” of some sort, whatever that means.

There have been a lot of interesting comments on the articles, too. One man today raised a good point that I want to address.

On the Regional lawsuit story, reader Chuck Martin noted that Memorial’s entire mission as a nonprofit hospital is to serve the low-income and uninsured population in the Yakima community. He also highlighted something that we included in the story but did not elaborate on, which is that most of Memorial’s charity care goes toward outpatient services, while the bulk of Regional’s charity care dollars go toward inpatient.

He’s right in that Memorial, as a nonprofit hospital, receives significant tax exemptions to serve the population that it does, and — as I noted in the story — it can therefore be misleading to compare the two hospitals’ number of patients. However, including those comparisons allowed us to show that there is a great disparity between what the two hospitals offer, which might support the lawsuit’s claims that Regional’s policies were turning people away.

There are a lot of numbers associated with this story, and I will be discussing them at greater length as we move forward. But for now I wanted you all to have a chance to look at them yourselves, and see if you find anything that catches your attention or needs addressing.

It’s all public data on the state Department of Health website. They have 10 years’ worth of year-end financial reports for all the hospitals in the state here. Just click the year you want to focus on, then click the hospital you want and it will ask you to open an Excel spreadsheet.

You can also look at other financial data here, like quarterly reports and budget reports.

DOH also has every hospital’s official charity care policy online (like my story says, Regional and Toppenish did not submit one until this year; prior to that, HMA had never had a formal policy on the books with the department), so if you want to delve into the nitty-gritty, you can do so at your leisure.

Like I said, I’ll continue to cover this issue and share more of these details as we learn more; I’m not putting these links up to say “Y’all go do my job for me,” but rather so you can have access to more information than we’re able to put in any individual story.

If you have questions or suggestions, let me know in the comments or email me directly.