In Robert deGavre’s view, it was a gross dereliction of duty for the public hospital district to not focus on the type of care provided by the Life Care Center. Perhaps he should have taken that up with the public hospital district board many years ago when it signed a contract to turn over up to 97% of all funds for a 50-year-period to an entity that doesn’t provide such care.
The truth is that the PHD doesn’t have funding to support all the health care needs that islanders might want. That’s why it’s important that PHD boards be empowered in an ongoing way to make funding decisions that are in the best interests of the community. The past PHD board made a choice to allocate nearly all public funds to PeaceHealth for 50 years.
I would never have signed a 50-year contract with any entity, but I also think PeaceHealth has worked hard to make the relationship with the PHD and this community work and many islanders value the care they’ve received there.
As discussions about long-term nursing and rehabilitative care move forward, people need to understand that the finances surrounding this are going to be very difficult. Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements don’t cover the cost of care, and there’s not enough public money available to make up the difference. (The center was losing approximately $1 million per year.) That’s the stark reality, and most of the decisions that affect such matters are made at the state and federal level. As we’ve seen, the momentum is against more public funding for health care, which places the burden squarely on individuals and families to plan for how they’re going to provide for long-term nursing and rehabilitative care. I wish it were different, and I consistently vote for broader access to health care, but there are a lot of people who think access to health care is a privilege and not a right – right up until they or a family member needs care they can’t afford.
San Juan Island Public Health District Commissioner
San Juan Island