Cable’s column dismisses problems with public hospital district| Guest Column

By Richard Grout

Special to the Journal

Tom Cable seems to have an exposed nerve ending when it comes to Monica Harrington. His recent guest column made multiple personal allegations about Monica that are false and offensive.  But let’s focus on his comments about the hospital and health care.

Cable brags that the $30 million dollar hospital was built without a dollar of public money. True enough, but every year since it opened we taxpayers have contributed more than $1.5 million to its operation and we’re on the hook for $80 million over the life of the contract. That’s our money and that means the taxpayers are entitled to real oversight.

That’s what the San Juan County Public Hospital District Board election is really about. An open and frank debate is a critical part of elections in a democracy but Cable apparently believes that an honest debate is bad for the hospital. Perhaps that’s because the current hospital district board commissioners delegated nearly all of their authority over the hospital to the unelected Peace Island Medical Center Hospital Board, which operates subject to the authority of PeaceHealth and which has never held a public meeting. Cable chairs that board and apparently he does not like anyone questioning his wisdom.

Cable seems to dismiss any notion that the public hospital district should fully comply with or support patient rights under the Reproductive Privacy and Death with Dignity Acts, Washington State laws that were overwhelmingly supported by voters in our county. He would rather divert our attention to the benefits the hospital has brought.  But no one gets to violate laws or parts of laws because they’re doing good deeds elsewhere.

PIMC is a valuable service provider in this community, but it cannot have monopoly power over our tax dollars for the next 50 years. The public hospital district commissioners, as the people’s elected representatives for healthcare, must have the discretion and flexibility to fund services PIMC refuses to provide. Similarly, I believe more effective oversight of our public tax dollars will lead to more confidence in and support of an EMS levy.

Monica Harrington cares deeply about all islanders, our access to health care, its costs and our rights under the law. No one doubts that PIMC has brought positives to the community in the form of local chemotherapy, advanced diagnostics and sophisticated emergency room services. But the price has been high. The average cost of an out-patient visit to the hospital in 2014, according to PIMC’s own figures, was $1,100.

This has hit working islanders especially hard.  Plus we’ve lost any effective, ongoing oversight of our public tax dollars. The differences between Monica Harrington’s view of health care and Tom Cable’s are certainly a key reason why she has been endorsed by hundreds of islanders who signed onto an ad that recently appeared in this publication.

We need Monica Harrington on the San Juan County Public Hospital District Board.