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AGO 1951 No. 78 - June 25, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

PARTIAL LEASE OF COUNTY HOSPITAL

The board of county commissioners may enter into a lease of the county hospital by which terms it is operated as a county hospital for welfare patients only and as a private hospital in all other respects, but the operation as a county hospital must conform to all laws applicable to county hospitals and the operation must have all the attributes of county operation, including county employment of personnel in attendance on welfare patients.

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                                                                   June 25, 1951

Honorable W. R. Cole
Prosecuting Attorney, Kittitas County
National Bank of Commerce Building
Ellensburg, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 78

Dear Sir:

            You have requested an opinion of this office on the question of whether or not the board of county commissioners can enter into a lease of the county hospital with a private person by which terms it is provided that the hospital be operated by the lessee as a county hospital for the purpose of providing hospitalization to welfare patients but be operated in all other respects as a private hospital and as a nursing home for the care of welfare patients eligible for such care under the laws of this state.

            Our conclusion may be summarized as follows:

            The board of county commissioners may enter into a lease of the county hospital by which terms it is operated as a county hospital for welfare patients only and as a private hospital in all other respects, but the operation as a county hospital must conform to all laws applicable to county hospitals and the operation must have all the attributes of county operation, including county employment of personnel in attendance on welfare patients.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The board of county commissioners of Kittitas County in December of 1948, entered into a contract with a private party effective January 1, 1949, which provided that the county hospital would be leased out to be operated as a private hospital.  Among the terms of the contract was a provision that declared that the primary purpose of the contract was to provide adequate care and hospitalization for welfare patients who at all times and in all cases be given preference over all other patients except in cases of extreme emergency.

            It is now the intention of the board of county commissioners to modify the agreement so as to provide that the hospital be operated as a county hospital for welfare patients.  In all other instances, the hospital would continue in operation as a private institution.

            Section 1, chapter 87, Laws of 1901 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 4019) provides as follows:

            "That the board of county commissioners of any county in this state, wherever it shall appear that it is for the best interests of such county and the people thereof,that any part, parcel or portion of the real property and its appurtenances to said county belonging, should be leased for a year or term of years, are hereby authorized and empowered to lease such property under the limitations and restrictions and in the manner hereinafter provided."  (Emphasis added).

            By the above quoted portion of the statute, it is evident that inclusive within the powers of the board of county commissioners of Kittitas County to manage county property is the power to lease all or a portion of the county hospital.  In effect the modification of the lease, which involved the whole of the hospital and its appurtenance, to provide that the hospital shall be operated as a county hospital as respects welfare patients is tantamount to a lease of a portion of the county property.  Such a modification of the contract is valid and within the powers of the board.

            The fact that the hospital is to be operated as a county hospital in relation to welfare patients of the state necessitates the conclusion that the operation must be a total county operation.  By this is meant that all statutes which  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] apply to county hospitals in general must apply to this operation, as for example, the recent legislation applicable to a county hospital in chapter 256, Laws of 1951 and in section 28, chapter 139, Laws of 1951.  County operation of the hospital as limited to the care and hospitalization of welfare patients means also that all personnel who are for such time in supervision of or in attendance upon the welfare patients must be county employees and be paid by the county.

            In summary conclusion, it is the opinion of this office that the board of county commissioners has the power to enter into a lease of the county hospital by which terms it is operated as a county hospital for welfare patients only and as a private hospital in all other respects, but the operation as a county hospital must conform to all laws applicable to county hospitals and the operation must have all the attributes of county operation, including county employment of personnel in attendance on the welfare patients.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

BARBARA L. OHNICK
Assistant Attorney General

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