Journal of the San Juan Islands


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

October 25, 2013 · 6:49 PM

Mark Schwinge / Contributed photo

Journal: What purpose does the hospital commission serve?

Mark Schwinge: Per RCW 70.44, the Public Hospital District (PHD) No. 1 board’s responsibilities include overseeing the hospital district’s policies and organization, and San Juan Island EMS/Medevac. Each has its own levy.

Peace Island Medical Center (PIMC) reports twice yearly to the PHD board, which monitors how PIMC spends its tax levy for local charity care, emergency services, and physician services. At PHD meetings, commissioners address public comments and concerns. The PHD provides island-appropriate community health care needs as its budget allows.

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

Schwinge: I am running for three reasons: to serve our community; to support its health care system; and to advance our EMS and its air ambulance system.

Many of us seek to help others, to make a difference in this broken world. I offer relevant experience, professional ethics, motivation, and a skill set suited to meet the challenges.

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

Schwinge: Currently PHD residents receive, as a benefit of their district taxes, ground and air ambulance transportation with no out-of-pocket expenses.

Island Air Ambulance’s MedEvac Membership (not insurance) program provides other county residents and visitors medically necessary air medical transportation to mainland hospitals, with no out-of-pocket expenses. The MedEvac Membership program likely will increase our air ambulance’s utilization, and benefit judicious expansion.

Our county’s Island Air Ambulance program, accredited by the same organization as Airlift NW, for years has used a capable Cessna 207. But like the helicopter, our plane cannot operate into known icing conditions aloft.

To serve our county in a broader range of weather, we need to acquire a turboprop air ambulance. In a single stroke, this action will expand our ability to meet countywide critical care air transport needs. We must accomplish this in a fiscally responsible manner.

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?

Schwinge: Responsibility for operation of PIMC properly belongs to its own administration; they consult with PIMC medical staff to select clinical services.

But the PHD board can and should be a conduit for public comment regarding services not presently available, and communicate to the PIMC board the public’s interests and desires.

Realistically, patient safety and treatment costs will limit local services unless other funding can be found. The PHD board may have opportunity to support additional clinical services apart from PIMC if the public approves additional levies, or if secular interests raise money to establish and operate a specialized clinic, for example, a maternity services office, possibly under the aegis of our PHD.

Wide public support for any tax increase would be needed. Meanwhile, referral to mainland providers for services with low patient demand makes sense.

PIMC limits only elective abortions and life-ending prescriptions. Birth control pills and devices are available. Resident expectant mothers will continue to receive personal clinical support from visiting specialists.



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