Transparency is called for on public hospital board | Letters

As most know, Peace Island Medical Center receives around $1.5 million from our tax money. Over the fifty years of the contract, that’s $75 million. But there’s a lot more.

Last year islanders paid $14 million for services at Peace Island. Over fifty years, even assuming no increases in healthcare costs, that’s $700 million in revenues from services provided to, and paid for, by people in this community.

Additionally, PeaceHealth has assuredly increased revenues from referrals to St. Joseph. Those bills would be higher, as the services would be more expensive. Let’s conservatively estimate those at another $2 million, so another $100 million.

Adding those three revenue streams up the total is $875 million over fifty years. With even a modest increase in healthcare costs, it’s clear this contract is easily a billion dollar contract.

That’s billion, with a “b.”

That’s a billion dollars of community healthcare spending going to one provider. While we now have a beautiful hospital, we are paying for the facility as well. $10 million was donated by islanders, the other $20 million raised through general obligation bonds (paid for out of revenues), meaning if PeaceHealth walks away, we are on the hook for the money.

Additionally, the contract gives PeaceHealth the right to keep out any other competing providers. A contract negotiated in private by a few individuals, presented to the public hospital board as a done deal, and for which there was never a public vote, will, over fifty years, direct at least a billion dollars to a single, monopoly provider. Overseen by an unelected board holding no public meetings.

PeaceHealth isn’t going anywhere. They aren’t going to walk away from a billion-dollar revenue stream and a hospital we built and are paying for simply because we want to see if we they can more efficiently and economically meet the needs of the community.

No matter what happens in this hospital board election, we as a community need to establish some real, transparent public oversight over what goes on at Peace Island, and at what services are being offered, at what cost.

Charles A. Richardson

Friday Harbor