PHD should do more in wake of Life Care closure | LetterLetters

The San Juan Island Public District Hospital Board, partnering with our community, replaced the fiscally failing, outdated medical center with a modern, well-equipped hospital costing $33 million with no public funding. These efforts significantly expanded the medical services available, improved the quality of care, and lowered our post-2015 tax burden. It was a remarkable achievement.

This stands in stark contrast to the board’s response to the failure of the 67-bed convalescent center [Life Care Center]. As eloquently expressed in PHD Commissioner Monica Harrington’s letter [see the Nov. 8 edition of the Journal], she was fixated on re-visiting past decisions while the center imploded month-by-month.

Under the statutes, the board has broad powers to partner in plans for rehabilitative and long-term care centers. Yet the board never used its authorities to:

• Request Life Care to periodically brief it on the center’s operations, or familiarize itself with the center’s financial condition (notwithstanding Ms. Harrington’s estimate), or ask Life Care to submit a plan to save the center.

• Explore with PeaceHealth how they could participate, though an official offered to do so.

• Involve Rep. Kevin Ranker’s (D-Orcas) office in exploring state monies as a bridge to a long-term solution.

In sum, the board, in dereliction of its statutory powers, failed to use its unique position to lead, coalesce, cajole, and partner with all parties to develop a plan for a re-constituted center.

Finally, Ms. Harrington argues that the board be empowered “… to make funding decisions that are in the best interests of our community”.” The record to date is disturbing. She voted with the majority to extract $40,000 annually from PeaceHealth to fund reproductive care at a local clinic open one day a week. It was not an “unmet” need. The clinic’s services are without exception provided by our hospital and visiting OBGYN’s. In addition, all the statistical indices for reproductive care in the tri-annual Community Health Needs Assessment are relatively positive – in contrast to alcohol and opiate abuse which the assessment classifies as a “health care emergency.” This funding decision was ideologically-based, not a fact-based assessment of our community’s unmet needs.

Ideology – the denial of facts – is antithetical to addressing our community’s health care needs.

Robert deGavre

San Juan Island