For-profit hospitals stop funding MedVans for elderly patients


This winter may be a lot tougher for some disabled or elderly people in Spokane.

Many of these people relied on Northwest MedVan, a service through Inland Northwest Health Services that transports elderly and disabled patients from their homes to appointments at Sacred Heart, Holy Family, Deaconess and Valley hospitals, as well as Rockwood Clinic locations and St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute.

But now, Community Health Systems, the for-profit multi-state corporation that owns Rockwood Clinic and Deaconess and Valley Hospitals, has stopped paying for those services. That means patients going to appointments at Sacred Heart, St. Luke’s and Holy Family can use MedVans for transportation, but those going to Rockwood, Deaconess and Valley Hospitals no longer can.

In October, INHS’s chief operating officer, Nancy Vorhees, was told by her accounting department that they hadn’t received payment from Community Health Services for August or September. Then, in a meeting on Oct. 3rd with leadership from Deaconess and Valley Hospitals, she says, the leadership told her that, from their perspective, it wasn’t something they should be doing.

“I was surprised,” Vorhees says. “I had thought they would continue providing this program.” The leadership also informed INHS that they would no longer be chipping in to fund Community Health Education and Resources, INHS’s program to educate community members on health issues.

Last year, MedVan provided 16,856 total transports for the year. But so far this year, they’ve have had even more — 18,506 total transports through October. About 23 percent of those were from CHS hospitals.

Kirsten Carlile, director of the MedVan program, made a personal call to all the patients remaining on the schedule and explained what happened. (She also sent this letter.)

“Some were shocked, some were angry,” Carlile says. “We were disappointed with the decision Deaconess and Valley had made.” Calls were made to spokespeople from Valley, Deaconess and Rockwood this afternoon, but were not returned.