Hospitals boards should not have political agendas | Guest Column

By Robert deGavre

It is disheartening as an island resident to follow the campaign for the election for the hospital board.

Starting with the basics, in Washington state, the purpose of hospital districts and therefore presumably the hospital commissioners, as written in the RCW, is “…to operate hospitals and other health care facilities and to provide hospital services and other health care services for the residents of such districts and other persons.”

The election campaign doesn’t focus upon the core purpose of the board – namely the provision of medical services.  Few candidates even mention the foundational words underpinning the provision of health care services – quality care, affordable care, accessible care. Monica Harrington writes that “I put the rights of patients first.”

I may be naïve; but if I go to the hospital, I expect the medical personnel to give overwhelming priority to the provision of best available care, affordable care, and prompt care, and not as I lay in pain or dying to read to me first a statement of my rights.

The naïve voter could be forgiven by concluding that two candidates – Monica Harrington and Barbara Sharp – are running for the office of county attorney.  Barbara Sharp writes about “compliance with the law” and Monica Harrington writes about “compliance with Washington State law.” Both emphasize “transparency’” and leave the reader to wonder what that code word really means and how it applies to the provision of health care.  Is their objective to use the hospital board as a tax-payer funded forum for legal warfare and bigotry?

As I read the essence of their statements, Monica Harrington and Barbara Sharp are two-trick ponies – death with dignity and reproductive rights. The naïve voter could and should assume that if they are indeed concerned about women’s health, they would speak up about the real issues of women’s health.

In nearly 40 percent of counties of Washington State and in nearly half the counties in the United States women’s life expectancy is declining. These adverse trends are not because of reproductive rights, but because of increased rates of smoking, drinking and obesity, which in turn lead to increased rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, among other morphologies.

(Editor’s note: Research has shown a decline in life expectancy for women, but no conclusive evidence has been found as to why. Although an article in ‘The American Prospect”  states that snoking and unemployemnt are huge factors.)

It would be more reassuring if all the candidates were to focus upon the ugly, intractable issues in the provision of health care. Monica Harrington and Barbara Sharp are lost in the language of our dysfunctional political system and in political shibboleths such as patient rights, transparency, and reproductive rights.

I urge you to vote for those candidates whose only agenda is to improve the availability of quality, affordable, and accessible health care on our islands, and not to vote for those candidates who have a political agenda.