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Published October 26, 2012, 08:04 AM

3 hospitals in ND Oil Patch seek sales tax help

MINOT, N.D. – Some hospitals in western North Dakota are turning to voters for financial help as they struggle with the impact of the oil boom.

By: Associated Press, INFORUM

MINOT, N.D. – Some hospitals in western North Dakota are turning to voters for financial help as they struggle with the impact of the oil boom.

Residents of Tioga, Stanley and Crosby will decide on Nov. 6 whether to impose new sales taxes to support their local hospitals.

Issues facing hospitals in the Oil Patch include difficulty competing in wages, a lack of affordable housing for employees and a substantial increase in patients who don’t pay their bills.

“We have increased our bad debt quite a bit because we have the obligation to take care of anybody who comes to our emergency room, whether they have money or not,” said Les Urvand, administrator of St Luke’s Hospital in Crosby.

Annual emergency room visits there have increased from about 365 before the boom to 800 last year. St. Luke’s is projecting nearly 1,200 visits this year.

“We need some help, one way or another,” Urvand said.

Officials at Mountrail County Medical Center in Stanley are seeking additional money primarily for operating expenses but also for equipment and other improvements, Administrator Doris Brown said. The administration would like to increase the size of its clinic and expand its emergency area, which currently has only one patient room.

Tioga Medical Center also wants a larger emergency room along with a new clinic. Emergency room visits have more than tripled from five years ago.

“Our community is growing and we need to build a new clinic to accommodate the population growth,” Administrator Randall Pederson said.

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