Election 2015: Harrington to run for hospital commission

Monica Harrington

Be prepared for a lively debate in the upcoming campaign for the San Juan Island hospital district commission.

Monica Harrington is in the race.

A self-described former technology executive turned patient-rights advocate, Harrington said in a prepared statement circulated electronically April 9 that she will run for a position on the 5-person hospital commission. She has been among the more active and outspoken critics of the faith-based dictates at work at San Juan Island’s Peace Island Medical Center, how those dictates influence the services offered at the medical center and of the publicly supported hospital district’s relationship with PIMC and its parent organization, Peace Health.

“My platform is all about promoting patient rights, getting the cost structure under control, and holding vendors (including PeaceHealth) accountable for delivering quality health care in a way that meets the needs of islanders,” Harrington of her candidacy.

Three positions on the 5-person panel will be up for grabs in the Nov. 3 general election. Commissioners serve staggered six-year terms. The positions held by Lenore Bayuk, Rosanna O’Donnell and Mike Taylor are up for election this year.

An all-volunteer board of directors, the hospital commission sets policies for the hospital district and for San Juan EMS, and it maintains financial and operational oversight over each of the public entities and the revenue-generating property tax levies of both.

Under its contract with PeaceHealth, the hospital district hands-off its annual tax revenue to PIMC, roughly $1.5 million in 2014, to help cover the cost of providing charitable healthcare services, emergency department services and the provision of physician services. The district in 2012 shuttered the doors to the aging Inter Island Medical Center as called as part of its 50-year agreement with PeaceHealth.

A first-time candidate for public office, Harrington, a former marketing and business development executive with Microsoft, Picnik and Valve, and a senior policy officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the cost of services at PIMC is cause for concern as well.

“I’m also deeply concerned with skyrocketing medical costs, especially to working islanders,” said Harrington, a 15-year resident of San Juan Island, along with her husband. “It’s scary to me that average gross revenue for an out-patient visit at PIMC is more than $1,100 and that the utilization rate of the in-patient beds is 6 percent.”

In addition to the three positions on the hospital commission, the Nov. 3 ballot will feature 48 public offices up for election across the county, including the Friday Harbor town council and port commission, San Juan Island school district, fire district and park and recreation district, and San Juan Island cemetery districts as well. Candidates can file for office May 11-15 with the San Juan County elections department.