Hospital district candidates should address real problems | Letter

Candidates for the Public Hospital District Board should be judged by their knowledge of the urgent medical needs of San Juan County. The 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment is a useful starting point. It cites the following for our county: the relatively high rates of both youth substance abuse in nearly every category and alcohol-related driving deaths, and the dramatic increase in opiate-related crime and opiate abuse which the report classifies as a “significant public health issue.” Not one of these is mentioned by any candidate in the voters’ pamphlet.

In contrast, the CHNA cites the following as better than state averages: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weights, babies born to unwed mothers and teenage birth rates.

Yet the shibboleths of political medicine – reproductive care, family planning, Planned Parenthood, death with dignity – occupy the public discussion, not our county’s fact-based needs.

The candidates have also been silent about PHDB’s governance – or lack thereof – during the slow implosion of the convalescent center, a pillar of our integrated health care system. The RCW explicitly places under the PHDB “nursing home, extended care, long-term care, … rehabilitative care … services.”

It has been known for some time that the center’s owner Life Care Centers of America was in financial distress following its October 2016 $145 million settlement with the Department of Justice; that LCCA could no longer absorb losses incurred by the center; that it was not taking any new patients; that LCCA was meeting with potential buyers including in Anacortes; and finally that it was closing. An LCCA vice president briefed people here over a year ago. Yet the center was not placed on PHDB’s agenda until after its closure. Even then-Senator Kevin Ranker’s office was not notified. It stretches credibility that PHDB was not aware of the disaster unfolding before their eyes. And if not, then a majority of PHDB was distracted by political medicine. They have been grossly derelict in their statutory responsibilities.

Our public servants hold office to address real problems, not to charge at ideological windmills.

Robert deGavre

San Juan Island