July 10, 2008

Preparations Begin to Move County Court Offices to Clinic

By Nate Poppino, The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho

Jul. 10--Preparations have begun to shift part of Twin Falls County's district court offices over to St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center's Shoshone Street clinic, the only one of nine properties leased to the hospital that will become available to the county before 2011.

Discussed at a Tuesday meeting between county and hospital officials, the arrangement will turn over a wing of offices on the clinic's second floor, directly above its cafeteria, to the county. The space, court officials said, is desperately needed for the district's "problem-solving" courts, including drug, youth and mental health courts.

The area in question meets space needs, court officials wrote in a June 26 letter to county commissioners. It has its own elevator, separating court clients from clinic clients. And it won't require much remodeling, unlike much of the rest of the clinic. St. Luke's and the county are working to settle a dispute over how much the health system is supposed to contribute to that work.

Tuesday, St. Luke's Magic Valley CEO Mark Schwartz said the only stumbling block will be the elevator. It was taken out of service in 2003, before the health care company took over, due to privacy and access concerns regarding the women's imaging center that formerly occupied that area. Putting it back in working order could cost $2,600, said Paul Louton, St. Luke's Magic Valley director of facilities.

"If you want to put that into service, it's up to you to do that," Schwartz told county commissioners.

Current floor plans for the three-floor building show about 32,000 square feet considered unoccupied or "common" space. The building measures nearly 90,000 square feet, with 51,600 still used by St. Luke's and 6,200 occupied by the county.

One important first step in the county expansion plan will be a memorandum of understanding regarding sharing the costs and access to the building. Schwartz presented suggestions of what could be included in such a document.

In their proposal, St. Luke's Magic Valley officials split services in the building into two categories. Shared services, such as security, some housekeeping and snow removal shared by the two parties with costs allocated by number of square-feet occupied. Individual services, including data systems and both property and liability insurance, would be paid for by the party occupying the particular space.

County Commissioner Tom Mikesell said earlier this year that commissioners had asked several times for a meeting on an agreement, including once in an April 29 letter to hospital board President Cindy Collins. Mikesell himself is on that board.

Also Tuesday, hospital officials provided a list of what it would cost to provide certain pharmaceuticals for inmates of the county jail, estimating it would charge at least $4,700 per month for a number of different drugs provided at cost. Lou Probasco, county nursing director, said the county is studying whether to stay with Dick's Pharmacy, its current provider, or look for a lower-cost provider.

St. Luke's Magic Valley has no retail pharmacy, Schwartz said. Therefore, the drugs would be handled through a pharmacy in the company's Meridian hospital, he said. Probasco will work with hospital officials to sort out any problems the might be caused by the distance if it were to contract with St. Luke's.

Nate Poppino may be reached at 208-735-3237 or [email protected]


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