Public Hospital District votes to contract with Planned Parenthood | Update

Commissioners on the San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 voted to subsidize services at the Friday Harbor Planned Parenthood in a 3-1 vote at the May 24 meeting.

Each year, the local Planned Parenthood will receive $40,000 collected from county property taxes, to cover patients who cannot afford services. That is out of $50,000 set aside for services not provided by Peace Island Medical Center.

“There is a definite need for the money,” said District Chairman Bill Williams. “If we can’t provide any financial support we are likely to lose the Planned Parenthood office in Friday Harbor.”

The district has collected about $1 million since 2009 to fund health care. Since 2013, all of this money has gone to Peace Island Medical Center to cover services and bills of patients who cannot afford visits.

Last November, district commissioners voted to use $50,000 of that million to fund services the hospital does not provide. PIMC is a Catholic nonprofit and its policy states it does not provide the full range of reproductive health services. For instance, PIMC physicians prescribe birth control only for medical necessity, not lifestyle choices.

Commissioners held special work sessions the week before the May 24 meeting to discuss which health care providers would receive the $50,000. Executive Director of the Mount Baker Planned Parenthood Linda McCarthy presented information about the Friday Harbor location at one work session. At the May 24 meeting, Williams relayed some of that information.

He said 78 percent of patients served at the Friday Harbor Planned Parenthood use Medicaid to pay for services. That means they fall 200 percent below the U.S. poverty line.

Last year, the local office was short $37,000 and the projected loss for this year is $55,000. The local Planned Parenthood is funded by its parent organization in Mount Baker and private donations.

Planned Parenthood patients, said Commissioner Barbara Sharp, can’t afford to take the ferry to off-island offices.

“They’re the servers in the restaurants, they’re the bank tellers, they’re the checkers at the grocery store, who often work two jobs,” she said.

Commissioner Micheal Edwards continued with his stance that PIMC doctors provide contraceptive to patients, regardless of hospital policy. He has been proposing to use the $50,000 to curb youth substance abuse through the San Juan County Coalition and expand paramedicine services through San Juan County EMS.

These services were also reviewed at a work session before the May 24 meeting. A resolution to fund those services with the remaining $50,000 was voted against at the May 24 meeting. It was voted on before the resolution to fund Planned Parenthood, so the remaining $10,000 hadn’t been determined yet. Some commissioners wanted the dollar amount set before voting. Allocation of the remaining funds will be discussed at the next meeting in June.

Previously, commissioners voted to draft a contract with Planned Parenthood, but the passed resolution designated funds. Discussions about supporting the nonprofit sparked months of heated debates among commissioners and the public, but only two community members spoke at the May 24 meeting.

Commissioners Williams, Sharp, Monica Harrington voted to subsidize Planned Parenthood services. Commissioner Edwards voted no and Commissioner Mark Schwinge was not at the meeting due to family issues.