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AGO 1950 No. 386 - November 20, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

INITIATIVE 178 ‑- SUPERVISION AND OPERATION OF KING COUNTY HOSPITAL

Section 15 of Initiative 178 does not repeal chapter 139, Laws of 1931.  The Board of Trustees is still responsible for the administration, supervision and operation of such county hospital.

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                                                               November 20, 1950

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney
King County
County-City Building
Seattle, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 386

Attention:  !ttK. G. Smiles
            Chief Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on the following question:

            Does section 15 of Initiative 178 repeal chapter 139, Laws of 1931, and give the Department of Health authority and responsibility to administer and supervise county hospitals in excess of the two hundred bed capacity?

            Our conclusion may be summarized as follows:

            Section 15 of Initiative 178 does not repeal chapter 139, Laws of 1931.  The Board of Trustees is still responsible for the administration, supervision and operation of such county hospitals.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The question has arisen concerning the authority of the Board of Trustees of King County Hospital to administer and supervise Harborview hospital in view of certain provisions of Initiative 178 which was recently enacted by voters of this state.  Section 15 of the Initiative provides in part that the Department of Health

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "(4) shall make full use of all existing public and free facilities and services;"

            and further provides that:

            "(g) The local health officer shall have supervision over county hospitals and other public institutions utilized in providing medical service to the eligible persons.  The local health department shall make full use of public, free and voluntary facilities and services in the administration of this program."

            Chapter 174, Laws of 1925 Ex. Sess. (Rem. Rev. Stat. 6090-1 et. seq.) authorized the establishment of county hospitals to care for and treat indigent, sick, injured, etc.  Section 1, chapter 139, Laws of 1931 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 6090-9) provides as follows:

            "Whenever any county or any county and city jointly, or two or more counties jointly shall have heretofore or shall hereafter establish a hospital or similar institution of two hundred, or more, beds, for the care of the sick, injured or infirm, * * * the board of county commissioners of the county in which such hospital or institution is located shall appoint as trustees for such hospital or institution six secular persons, two to be from each county commissioner district, and to be the persons nominated by the county commissioner elected from the respective districts.  Said six trustees, together with the additional trustees, if any, and the general superintendent, hereinafter provided for, shall constitute a board of trustees for such hospital and institution with such powers and duties as are hereafter set forth.  The members of the board of trustees first appointed shall be appointed for the respective terms of one, two, three, four, five and six years from and after the fifteenth day of January following their appointment, and until their successors are appointed and qualified; and thereafter their respective successors shall be appointed for terms of six years and until their successors are appointed and qualified.  * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            and section 7, chapter 139, Laws of 1931 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 6090-15) provides that:

            "The board of trustees shall:

            "(1) Have general supervision and care of such hospitals and institutions and the buildings and grounds thereof and power to do all and everything necessary to the proper maintenance thereof within the limits of the appropriations authorized.

            "(2) Employ and fix the salary of a general superintendent, who shall furnish a bond in such amount as may be fixed by the board and which shall be subject to approval of the board.  The general superintendent shall become an ex-officio member and secretary of the board of trustees, * * *

            "(3) Prepare, in accordance with the provisions of the county budget law and file with the county auditor or if the hospital has been established by more than one county, with the county auditor of each county, and if a city has contributed to the establishment of the hospital, with the official of the city charged by law with the preparation of the city budget, a detailed and itemized estimate, both of probable revenues from sources other than taxation and of all expenditures required from such county, or counties and city, as the case may be, by such hospital or institution for the ensuing fiscal year.

            "(4) File during the first week in January of each year with the county commissioners of each county and the city council or governing body of any city contributing to the establishment of such hospital, a report covering the proceedings of the board with reference to such hospital, and a statement of all receipts and expenditures during the preceding calendar year.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            "(5) Have the power to accept property by gift, devise, bequest or otherwise for the use of such hospital or institution."

            The provision of section 15 of Initiative 178 which would appear at first glance to be in conflict with the above provisions is found in subsection (g) to the effect that the local health officer shall have supervision of county hospitals and other public institutions providing care to eligible persons under the public assistance laws of this state.  However, our courts do not look with favor upon repeals by implication and no such repeal will be found unless the two statutes are clearly inconsistent.  An analysis of the two statutes in question reveals that they are not necessarily inconsistent and that the provisions of both acts can be effective.

            For the first time the legal responsibility for providing medical care and health services to recipients of public assistance and medically indigent persons is transferred to the Department of Health from the Department of Social Security.  Accordingly, all duties and authority given to the Department of Health under section 15 are necessarily those which will enable the department to carry out its functions under the Initiative.  For example, it has complete authority to determine how the medical care shall be provided to recipients, and the standards for such medical care.  In addition, there are two provisions which have been previously pointed out which require the Department of Health to make full use of public and free facilities and services in providing such medical care.  It would appear that the only responsibility the local health officer would have over any of the county hospitals, therefore, and particularly those operating under boards of trustees in Pierce and King Counties, would be to determine whether or not recipients of public assistance and medically indigent persons are receiving medical care according to the standards and rules and regulations established by the State Board of Health, and, where such is not the case, to require conformance with said standards as to such persons.

            Accordingly, you are advised that it is the opinion of this office that there has been no repeal by implication of chapter 139, Laws of 1931, by section 15 of Initiative 178.  The Board of Trustees in 200 bed hospitals will continue in the future to operate under the 1931 act and the local county health officer will have the authority to determine whether or not recipients of public  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] assistance and medically indigent persons are receiving medical care according to the State Board of Health's standards and rules and regulations.  Where it appears that said rules and standards are not being complied with said officer will have the authority to require conformity with said rules and standards as to such persons.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

JANE DOWDLE
Assistant Attorney General

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