In the latest development in its ongoing battle to perform elective angioplasties, Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital has lost an appeal of a state decision rejecting its application for a Certificate of Need, which would have given the hospital’s doctors clearance to begin seeing patients for the procedure on a nonemergency basis.
Hospital CEO Rick Linneweh said Memorial will not appeal the decision, issued last month by a state administrative law judge.
“Forging ahead with an appeal will take a lot of resources only to produce a set of legal challenges lasting an inordinate amount of time,” he said in a statement.
The hospital still has the ability to perform the procedure on an emergency basis.
Memorial first applied in February 2011 to the Health Department for the right to perform elective percutaneous coronary interventions (PCIs), a procedure in which a doctor inserts a balloon-tipped catheter into a patient’s artery, inflating it to clear a blockage.
But the state denied the request on the grounds that there is no demonstrated need for two hospitals in the Yakima area to perform the procedure.
Currently, Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center is the only hospital in town with the Certificate of Need for elective angioplasties. Memorial has argued that this restricts patient choice and gives Regional a financial advantage. Elective angioplasties would be a lucrative procedure for the hospital.
The latest hearing took place last month in Tumwater, where an administrative law judge granted summary judgment to Regional, dismissing Memorial’s argument that the state needs to measure need by different standards.
Regional argued that the state ought to continue using the methodology established in 2008 for counting elective PCIs performed in the community.
Regional CEO Rich Robinson said it was “appropriate” for the administrative law judge to deny Memorial’s appeal.
“We agree that the information and the criteria established by Certificate of Need regulations specific to PCI were not met, and therefore the decision by the Department of Health (to deny Memorial’s application) was correct,” Robinson said.
Linneweh, however, argues that the criteria are wrongheaded.
“We consider the 2008 method for collecting and counting procedures to be analogous to being told to count all the stars in the night sky but only face West,” he said in the statement. “With this decision, underreporting will perpetuate an incomplete picture. We are disappointed that the Summary Judgment was granted and we never had our day in court to produce our evidence.”
Memorial has also pursued elective PCIs via the federal court system, in which it sued the Health Department on antitrust and restraint of trade grounds in 2009 after the state adopted its new counting methodology.
The hospital is currently appealing a U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the Department of Health and expects the case to be heard in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the spring.
• Molly Rosbach can be reached at 509-577-7728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.