Candidate Q & A: SJI Hospital District Commission | Election 2013

Howie Rosenfeld - Contributed photo/Tim Dustrude
Howie Rosenfeld
— image credit: Contributed photo/Tim Dustrude

Journal: What purpose does the hospital commission serve?

Howie Rosenfeld: The commissioners are charged with overseeing the expenditure of two public tax levies. One is for our outstanding and award winning Emergency Medical Service. The other is an ongoing (50 years by the current contract) subsidy of 95 to 97 percent of the tax collected to support emergency and underfunded medical care at Peace Island Medical Center.

The commissioners represent the taxpayers, not Peace Health. I’d like to see the commissioners be more active advocates for making sure the medical service needs of our community are provided, if not by Peace Health then elsewhere. I’d also like to see collaboration with the County Board of Health and the private Peace Island Hospital Board.

Journal: Why do you want to be a hospital district commissioner?

Rosenfeld: I’ve always found being involved in government rewarding and I want to help keep this island a great place to live. After 33 years of public service on San Juan Island I’m not ready to stop.

My EMS-related background includes being a volunteer firefighter, fire chief and fire commissioner. My hospital related background includes a career in public health with job descriptions of epidemiologist, public health advisor and health educator. I also enjoyed the eight years I spent working for our community on the County Board of Health.

Journal: Explain your thoughts about fixed-wing EMS ambulance service and its possible expansion through a countywide insurance program?

Rosenfeld: I’m very much in favor of the MedEvac services being offered and expanded (EMS tax levy funds are not used for this service) but the public is having some difficulty understanding it.

I’ll try: Every household needs to have membership(s) to be protected from out-of-pocket charges. District residents are automatically protected if medevaced by Island Air Ambulance, whether or not they have a membership or insurance. But because there is no guarantee you will be medevaced by the Air Ambulance, you need to be protected in case you go by helicopter.

The patient’s need and weather conditions will determine which transport will be used. Other transport resources for us include ferry, Coast Guard, sheriff’s boat and more. Air Care (Airlift NW) membership and MedEvac Membership (Island Air Ambulance) were reported to be reciprocal. Then reported they are not. The Hospital District needs to clear this up.

The expanded service being offered allows non-district residents, people on the other islands, temporary residents, visitors, etc. to purchase memberships. This allows everyone frequenting the San Juans to be covered for air ambulance in a medevac emergency, making the islands even more visitor friendly.

Journal: In light of concerns about costs, services and policies, what role should the hospital commission play in the operation and administration of Peace Island Medical Center?

Rosenfeld: At present, Peace Health is accommodating and responsive to commissioners’ concerns. I hope this continues.

The commissioners are watchdogs over the subsidy and have the annual right to propose changes to “the nature and scope of services and procedures provided”. These are opportunities for the commissioners to be strong advocates for community medical service needs.

There are possible legal liability issues surrounding use of public tax funds in a religiously affiliated institution. A recent example is the Attorney General’s Opinion on women’s reproductive health.

Regardless of whether there’s a challenge, my position is the Hospital District has a responsibility to see that these services, needed by the community, are provided. I stand for access to affordable medical care, reproductive services and death with dignity.We have a great EMS. Let's keep it that way.

We have a great hospital. Let's work together to make it better.

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