Ore. hospital sues to stop FD from billing it for ambulance services

The La Pine Rural Fire Protection District began charging the St. Charles Health System after seeing an increase in call volume for transfers from its immediate care clinic


By Laura French

LA PINE, Ore. — An Oregon hospital system has sued to stop a fire district from billing it for ambulance transports from its immediate care clinic. 

The St. Charles Health System stated in its lawsuit that a La Pine Rural Fire Protection District ordinance billing the hospital, instead of patients, for the transports is "arbitrary and unreasonable under the United States Constitution and the Oregon Constitution," The Bulletin reported

St. Charles Health System has sued to stop the La Pine Rural Fire Protection district for billing it, instead of patients, for ambulance transports from one of its clinics.
St. Charles Health System has sued to stop the La Pine Rural Fire Protection district for billing it, instead of patients, for ambulance transports from one of its clinics. (Photo/La Pine Rural Fire Protection District)

The health system opened an immediate care clinic in La Pine in 2018, which was expected to reduce call volume for the fire district; instead, there was an increase in calls to transport patients from the clinic to one of St. Charles' hospitals when a doctor recommended a transfer, fire officials said. 

The fire district's board passed an ordinance in August 2019 allowing Fire Chief Mike Supkis to bill the hospital for calls he considers to be non-emergencies. Fire officials said transports from the clinic are occurring about two times per week and allege that the hospital is treating paramedics like taxi drivers, according to The Bulletin. 

Since the ordinance went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, the hospital has been billed for 50 patient transports costing at least $2,000 each, and the district later enlisted a collection agency to demand $300,000 in payments from the hospital, plus a collection fee.  

The hospital has now sued to strike down the ordinance, arguing that it is harmful to patients and that patients are only referred for transport when a medical doctor deems it necessary. 

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