Submitted by Nathan Butler, San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1.
We all felt the shock when the Life Care Center in Friday Harbor closed in 2017.
Since then, various approaches have been investigated to solve the problem. The hospital district placed a lid lift to its primary levy from approximately $0.34 to $0.70 per $1,000 in assessed value on the ballot this fall to implement a plan broadly based on the “Community Long-Term Care Options Task Force,” which met over eight months in 2018. The task force recommended “that a multi-level project needs to be developed under a unified umbrella utilizing current innovations to address these needs,” which included a range of things from home care to facility care to workforce issues. The idea was to give people the least expensive option first, home care, with expanded facility supports when home care is inadequate. The hospital district proposes to purchase the Village at the Harbor to serve as the unified umbrella recommended by the task force.
If approved, the hospital district plans to use the additional funds from the levy lid lift to purchase the facility, as well as upgrade, update, and expand the facility. The hospital district also plans on adding Medicaid beds, as well as a home care component so that as many as possible can “age in place.” Finally, the hospital district plans on supporting staff by providing medical benefits and retirement. In 2019, the hospital district helped support a comprehensive survey into the need of long-term care within its jurisdiction. There were roughly four hundred respondents, about half from San Juan Island. Of those, 37% of those respondents indicated that they had tried to access a long-term care service and were unable to find adequate service. About 23% of the respondents needed Medicaid support. There are no Medicaid beds or home care services that take Medicaid on San Juan Island.
The hospital district has two levies. Its primary levy is at about $0.34 per $1,000 in assessed value. For the most part, this supports PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center (PIMC). The District does not operate PIMC, instead, it sends them two subsidy checks every year. The District is proposing a lid lift for this primary levy to $0.70, which the hospital district estimates will raise sufficient funds to buy the Village, expand it, support workers, and begin providing some home care services. This will not affect the District’s commitment to PIMC one way or the other. The District’s other levy, its EMS levy, is at about $0.38 per $1,000 in assessed value. Neither the lid lift of the District’s primary levy nor the District’s long-term care plans will affect San Juan Island EMS. The District has proposed moving its EMS service to the Fire District, and the Fire District added an EMS levy to the ballot this fall to accomplish this.
The passage or failure of that measure does not impact the District’s long-term care plans. The hospital district developed a six-year budget plan for its long-term care plans, a budget and project narrative, an FAQ, cost estimates for taxpayers, and more on its website. https://sjcphd.org/ltc.