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District negotiations with hospital turn hopeful

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN (Week of January 29, 2015)

A Saturday meeting between Indian River Medical Center negotiators and Hospital District negotiators ended with participants from both sides feeling optimistic that differences between the hospital and District over indigent care reimbursement rates will soon be amicably resolved.

As elected representatives of the taxpayers, the seven District trustees direct tax dollars to the hospital for indigent care. Over the past year, hospital leaders disagreed with the District’s attempt to decrease the 2014 tax dollar amount of about $8.5 million to $7 million for 2015. The hospital, instead, wanted a $1 million increase.  

That divide was complicated by a difference over whether a contract between the District and the hospital called the Indigent Care Agreement trumped legislation giving the District the power to decide what constitutes a fair amount of tax dollars for the hospital.

But after a year of rocky negotiations with hospital negotiators calling a District offer “simplistic and flawed,” and District negotiators calling the hospital’s attitude “condescending and dismissive,” the two teams finally appear to be getting somewhere. 

At the weekend meeting, new hospital board chairman Wayne Hockmeyer reiterated what he said in an earlier conversation with District board chairman Tom Spackman: namely, that he is committed to working with District negotiators to arrive at a deal that is fair to taxpayers, as well as the hospital.