GRANGEVILLE “Syringa Hospital has got into the for-profit business,” said Chad Jungert, owner of Irwin Drug. “The problem is that they are a tax-based business getting into the private enterprise of Idaho County.”
Jungert addressed the Idaho County Commission Tuesday, April 17, with a request to consider removing Syringa Hospital as a public taxing district.
Though Jungert was told a petition, followed by a public vote would be the way to go about this, his concern remains.
In the time following the commission meeting, Jungert said he cannot support the Syringa administration when it is competing with private industry.
Syringa built a pharmacy, located next to its primary clinic in Grangeville, to house a private 340-B government program which is run by a private company, Cardinal Health, headquartered in Ohio. The 340-B pharmacy opened in April 2017.
The hostility about Syringa and its pharmacy stems from years of Jungert trying to make the 340-B program work through Irwin Drug, he said.
340-B is a government pharmacy program meant to help the indigent and those without insurance. 340-B is subsidized by the federal government to allow qualifying hospitals to purchase medications at a reduced price.
“The problem is with the way 340-B is viewed by hospitals, and therefore misused. It’s a profit-making scheme disguised as a program to help the indigent people. Simple as that,” Jungert stated. “Thanks to the taxpayers, Syringa provided Cardinal Health a nice space to operate its privately-owned pharmacy.”
Jungert said Cardinal Health is no doubt splitting its profits with Syringa.
“But what I don’t understand is, if Syringa really wanted to just help the indigent and those without insurance, why didn’t they set up the 340-B program with the hospital pharmacist they currently have on staff? Why bring in a for-profit business, build them a faculty to operate, at the expense of the Idaho county taxpayer”? Jungert questioned.
He said Syringa already had, and still does, a full-time in-patient pharmacist who is paid $120,000 a year plus benefits, at the taxpayers’ expense.
“I managed the pharmacy at Syringa for five years – I know there would be time to include 340-B labor,” he said.
Instead, Jungert said Syringa’s pharmacy is competing with the private sector and he does not feel it’s fair or ethical to use the public’s tax dollars to do so.
In 2016, Syringa received $517,284 in ad valorem taxes, and in 2017 the hospital received $533,679.
“I’m a small business trying to survive,” Jungert said. “I’ve lost all the hospital employees to Syringa’s pharmacy and I’m hearing that the Syringa employees are suggesting their patients use Syringa’s pharmacy.”
He said though the pharmacy is owned by an outside entity, Syringa is still “indulging in the private money earned from it.”
“Our tax dollars built that pharmacy. Our tax dollars already help pay an in-patient pharmacist $120,000 a year and a CEO $180,000 a year,” he stated. “Then the board of directors agree to bring in another entity, Cardinal Health, to run a for-profit, retail pharmacy in your tax based faculty, Syringa Hospital.”
He said he feels the hospital should be promoting a local business that has ties to and supports the community, not compete with it.
“There’s not enough business for two retail pharmacies to be profitable in Grangeville. Is the community going to allow Syringa to run out a private, locally-owned business? If another privately owned pharmacy wants to move into Grangeville, I welcome the competition, but only if that pharmacy is operating without an unfair advantage, such as 340-B gives it,” said Jungert.
“What’s keeping Syringa from getting into the car sales or motel business, or what about another coffee shop? It’s a slippery slope,” Jungert emphasized. “From a taxpayer’s perspective and as a citizen of Idaho County, my feeling is that Syringa Hospital is responsible for providing physician care to its community, but certainly not using the community tax dollars to enter the private enterprise.”
Jungert went back to the in-house pharmacist at Syringa.
“I just don’t understand why the in-patient pharmacist, who has been on the payroll at Syringa since 2011, couldn’t handle the 340-B and any requests from people who are indigent and uninsured, if that’s truly who Syringa’s mission was to serve.” he questioned.