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AGO 1958 No. 219 - September 30, 1958
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

HOSPITALS‑-COUNTY HOSPITAL‑-AUTHORITY OF BOARD OF TRUSTEES TO PROVIDE FOR A DEPARTMENT FOR CARE AND TREATMENT OF TUBERCULAR PERSONS‑-OFFICES AND OFFICERS‑-COUNTY‑-AUTHORITY OF BOARD OF TRUSTEES TO CREATE A DEPARTMENT IN COUNTY GENERAL HOSPITAL TO CARE FOR T.B. [[TB]]PATIENTS.

In counties where no county tuberculosis hospitals exist, the board of trustees of the county general hospital may provide for a department therein to care for tubercular patients.

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                                                              September 30, 1958

Honorable John G. McCutcheon
Prosecuting Attorney
Pierce County
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                            Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 219

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested a formal opinion of this office on the following question:

            If a county tuberculosis hospital organized pursuant to chapter 172, Laws of 1913, is dissolved, does § 16 of said chapter 172, (cf. RCW 70.30.150) prevent the county general hospital board of trustees from creating a department for care of tuberculosis patients in the general hospital of that county, pursuant to § 8, chapter 139, Laws of 1931 (cf. RCW 36.62.190).

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            You advise that the question arises because certain parties have  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] advanced the proposition that § 16 should be interpreted to mean that if any county has provided a county tuberculosis hospital then other counties having no tuberculosis hospital cannot care or treat patients in any county institution, except in case of emergency.

            Section 16, chapter 172 of the Laws of 1913, (cf. RCW 70.30.150), which relates to a county tuberculosis hospital, provides:

            "After the establishment in any county of a hospital as herein provided for, no person suffering from tuberculosis shall be taken care of or treated at any almshouse or county institutions, other than such hospital, except in cases of emergency."

            Section 8, chapter 139, Laws of 1931, (cf. RCW 36.62.190), which relates to a county general hospital, provides, in part:

            "The board of trustees may:

            "(5) Operate said hospital or institution as a general hospital and provide as a department thereof suitable accommodations and means for the care of persons afflicted with tuberculosis.

            "(6) Formulate rules and regulations for the government of tuberculosis patients and for the protection of other patients, nurses, and attendants from infection."

            The Washington supreme court has provided rules of statutory construction which enable us to resolve the instant problem:

            (1) It is a fundamental rule of statutory construction that if a statute is plain, unambiguous, and devoid of uncertainty, then there is no need nor reason for construction.  State v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681, 684, 203 P. (2d) 693 (1949).

            (2) Inasmuch as the fundamental object of statutory construction is to ascertain, if possible, and give effect to the  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] intention of the lawmakers enacting it, the legislative intent, will, or purpose is to be ascertained from the statutory text as a whole.  Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn. (2d) 390, 191 P. (2d) 858 (1948), and Guinness v. State, 40 Wn. (2d) 677, 246 P. (2d) 433 (1952)

            (3) In State v. Houck, supra, at 684, our court set forth another fundamental rule of statutory construction:

            "Statutes in pari materia must be construed together.  Statutes in pari materia are those which relate to the same person or thing, or the same class of persons or things; and in construing a statute, or statutes, all acts relating to the same subject matter or having the same purpose, should be read in connection therewith as together constituting one law.  The object of the rule is to ascertain and carry into effect the intent of the legislature, and it proceeds upon the supposition that the several statutes having to do with related subject matters were governed by one spirit or policy, and were intended to be consistent and harmonious in their several parts and provisions. . . ."

            In our opinion, the plain meaning of § 16, chapter 172, Laws of 1913, supra, is that no patient shall be treated in an almshouse or county institution, such as the county general hospital, in a county where a tuberculosis hospital has been established; certainly an analysis of chapter 172, Laws of 1913, as a whole, reveals such to be the legislative intent.  In any event, it is clear and certain that the statutes at hand are in pari materia.

            If then, they are to be read together and in such a way as to harmonize the two and so as to give effect to each, we must conclude (1) that § 8, above, empowers the board of trustees of a county general hospital to provide a department therein for care of persons afflicted with tuberculosis if there is no tuberculosis hospital in said county; and (2) that § 16, above prohibits treatment of tuberculosis patients in an almshouse or county institution in a county where a county tuberculosis hospital exists.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            It is our opinion that the question presented must be answered in the negative, and we concur with the well-reasoned opinion of your office dated June 2, 1958, to that effect.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

PHILIP R. MEADE
Assistant Attorney General

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