The music determines the emergency. Country concert? Mostly alcohol poisoning and drunken fights. Electronica? Drug overdose and dehydration. A big thing like Sasquatch? Probably all of the above. Quincy Valley Medical Center—the closest hospital to the Gorge Amphitheater—sees almost every patient. Due to the high medical costs of concert-caused accidents and injuries, state legislators are proposing an additional $1 fee to Gorge concert tickets that would go to help cover those emergency costs, according to the Associated Press. For Dr. Fernando Dietsch, the emergency room director at the Quincy hospital, the fee would be a welcome relief. News outlets reported that last year’s festival and concert attendees were responsible for over $400,000 in unpaid bills at the rural medical center.
Super Geek League dancers interact with festival attendees on the third and final day of the annual Sasquatch music festival over Memorial Day weekend in George, Wash.
“They come by ambulance. They come by friends. They come by pick-up trucks,” Dietsch said of patients in a recent radio piece by Northwest News Network. When dancing, drugs and weekend festivities go array, concertgoers end up in his E.R. “They’re unconscious or barely conscious. They’re intoxicated [with] something. Their blood pressure is dropping. You don’t know why. Every room will be full,” Dietsch said. If only he were exaggerating. KOMO News reported last year that Paradiso Festival at the Gorge drew more than 25,000 people for one June weekend—and that more than 70 were hospitalized for drug overdoses. According to Dietsch, numbers like that are over six times the usual. Those ending up in the emergency room are, of course, only a fraction of the 250,000-plus crowd—but it’s enough, hospital officials say, to make a pretty significant dent. Hospital administrator Mehdi Merred told Northwest News Network he has tried making compromises with concert promoter Live Nation, the organization in charge of events such as Sasquatch. The talks became more serious after a 21-year-old Washington State University graduate died at Paradiso last year. But according to Merred, nothing has yet to be done to adjust to emergency needs and costs. “I seriously do not believe in their good faith at this point,” Merred said of Live Nation. According to The Seattle Times, Live Nation officials claim they are not responsible for concertgoers’ behavior. Additionally, the organization already contributes to $1.2 million toward Grant County admission taxes yearly. Many are saying, though, this isn’t enough. “It is absolutely unfair to make the Quincy residents pay for the 40,000 kids that come from Seattle and get drunk, fall down and overdose on drugs,” said the bill’s proponent, State Rep. Matt Manweller in a Columbia Basin Herald article last year. Quincy is in a rare situation in comparison to most other concert locations nationwide. “In our research, there was not a similar situation in the entire United States where a small, rural hospital has to take care of a large venue like the Gorge,” Merred said. While small towns do host music festivals, none are quite the same scenario, reported Northwest News Network. Jacksonville, Oregon has the Britt Festivals and north Idaho hosts the Festival at Sandpoint, but the size and scope of those crowds is nothing like people coming to the Gorge. Coachella, though similar to Sasquatch, is serviced by multiple California-city hospitals. Some festivals even have hospital personnel on-site for emergencies. But Manweller doesn’t think all the blame should be on Live Nation. Instead, he wants the crowd to carry a bit more of the load. “I’m not sure that Live Nation is responsible for some of the bad decisions that their concertgoers make,” he said. “And by levying this fee on the ticket, it’s the actual concertgoer who bears the cost. And I just think that’s more
fair.” For most, with the cost falling on ticket prices, a dollar isn’t that big of a sum to pay on top of what customers already cough up. “I go to the Dave Matthews concert every year and the ticket is $56. If the ticket is $57, I’m not not going to go,” Manweller told KOMO.