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Debate muddied by misinformation | Guest Column
By Lenore Bayuk, J. Michael Edwards
There seems to be a great deal of confusion about women’s healthcare and end of life care at Peace Island Medical Center here on San Juan Island.
Although we have presented the specifics of what is offered at PIMC numerous times, and posted it on our website, it seems time to reiterate the facts, and not dwell on hypotheticals or half-truths.
In the first amendment to the subsidy agreement with PeaceHealth, district tax levy funds are specifically designated for “charitable healthcare services, emergency department services and the provision of physician services.” And, these funds are to be used “exclusively for the provision of [these] healthcare services within the district”.
As Hospital district commissioners, we can assure you that women are continuing to receive the healthcare they need and want, just as they did at our old Inter Island Medical Center.
Contraception is available from all our primary care physicians. This is a decision between each woman and her physician. If a woman is pregnant, and wants maternity care, she is referred to an OB/GYN physician or mid-wife who can provide the specialty care she needs. If she is wishing to terminate a pregnancy, she is referred to Planned Parenthood for appropriate care.
When a woman faces the loss of a pregnancy and needs medical treatment, she often is cared for at PIMC. If she needs emergency surgery, she is flown or otherwise transported off island to the hospital of her choice. PeaceHealth does not turn women away who need emergency care locally available or otherwise.
When we negotiated our contract with PeaceHealth our main goal was to provide the best possible healthcare for our island residents. Our medical center at the time was unsustainable, financially. We were considering cutting services, including 24/7 emergency coverage, and specialty services. In our negotiations, we had to pay attention to the overall needs of our community and what funds we had available through the tax levy.
We discussed a number of possible services that could be offered at a critical access hospital here on the island. We did discuss obstetric care. This is one area of healthcare that requires a great deal of 24/7 specialty staff and facilities available and very high malpractice insurance costs. We decided to not contract for these services for the same reasons we as a district have not been able to afford it in the past. This was a medical safety and cost sustainability decision.
In terms of end of life care, as many of you know, PeaceHealth physicians do not participate in the prescription of medication to end one’s life. However, PeaceHealth doctors do not abandon patients. If an individual requests this in discussion with their physician, they are referred to Compassionate Choices. PIMC physicians continue to follow their patients as needed.
PeaceHealth works very closely with Hospice for end of life care. Final directives are honored in all PeaceHealth hospitals. We have two hospices available in San Juan County. Hospice San Juan is an all-volunteer group.
Hospice Northwest is a professional service offered thru Skagit Hospital. They cover all of San Juan County as well as mainland communities. Their physicians do not prescribe for ending one’s life. They are available to serve as the second opinion when an individual chooses this option. They also refer patients to physicians who prescribe.
We invite everyone to consider the essence of what we all want: good and available healthcare. Instead of slinging around accusations not based in facts, we suggest people consider what we as a district board have done. We maintained our medical center in the face of fiscal demise and at great sacrifice for our staff, and we helped to create an amazing facility available to all district and San Juan County residents and visitors, 24/7.
If you truly want to know what decisions are being made by the hospital district board, attend our meetings and enter into reasonable discussions. Do your own research and understand what has been done and what is being done for our district and county at large.
We the undersigned were directly involved in the negotiations with PeaceHealth from the outset and have been privileged to serve this board for a decade or so each. All of us on the board work hard to stay informed and do our duty.
All documents related to PIMC are posted on our website: http://sjcphd.org (Go to the link for records).
Thanks for your time and consideration.
— Editor’s note: Lenore L. Bayuk is chairwoman of the hospital district commission; Dr. J. Michael Edwards is secretary and treasurer of the commission.