Public hospital board chooses new chair, examines subsidy agreement and EMS policy

The public hospital board has seen a shift in command, as the three new members to the board nominated and then voted in Bill Williams to replace J. Michael Edwards as chair of the board in their January meeting. Incumbent commissioner Mark Schwinge voted for Edwards to continue as chair.

The meeting was the first with the three new members, and also the first with new EMS Chief Jerry Martin. Incoming commissioners Monica Harrington and Williams also nominated and voted for fellow new board member Barbara Sharp to become secretary treasurer to the board, a position that Edwards had held for the last six and a half years.

The commissioners discussed EMS policies and procedures, and decided to create a work group after Harrington said she wanted the board to take a closer look at them.

“I have concerns about adopting them as-is,” Harrington said. “I want to make sure that we are complying with the law.”

Harrington cited the length of time after an employee has a baby as one policy she’d like to re-examine.

Edwards and Williams agreed, calling the EMS policies and procedures “daunting” and suggested streamlining them to get rid of redundancies.

The board also looked at current usage of the Inter Island Medical Center, which the San Juan Islands Museum of Art is using as storage while the public hospital district looks for a buyer for the property.

Also on the agenda was the PeaceHealth subsidy agreement, which Sharp briefly informed the board comes up for review in February. For any review of additional services that board members would like to be covered in the agreement, they are to submit them to her before February.

Harrington requested that the new members of the board get a legal review and update with concern to the American Civil Liberties Union letter that was sent to the board last summer, about compliance with the Reproduction Act and the Attorney General’s ongoing Medicaid fraud investigation, handled by Foster Pepper’s attorney Bradley Berg of Seattle. Harrington said she wants to understand the perspective behind Berg’s responses, and that there should potentially be an independent review of the situations.

Williams suggested that the public hospital board meet with the San Juan County Board of Health to strengthen communication between the two, and to discuss community needs when dealing with typically under-serviced demands like mental health. A financial review of 2015, discussed by Martin, found that there was a 4 percent increase in calls overall compared to 2014, with a total number of calls for the year at 1453.