Learn about hospital board duties before voting | Guest Column

By J. Michael Edwards

SJCPHD#1 Commissioner and Chairman

To ensure tax monies are judiciously used, San Juan County Public Hospital District’s five commissioners have a primary duty to review two tax levies (San Juan Island EMS, and the PIMC 2009 subsidy). Twice yearly PeaceHealth provides the hospital district with a comprehensive report detailing Peace Island Medical Center’s  use of our tax dollars.

The last report comprised 91 pages (And the record entitled “Semi-annual District Board Report 010115 to 063015 Final” including the 11 additional documents listed after). Commissioners study these reports in depth, and others from SJIEMS, prior to public sessions.

Commissioners also must make certain that the public receives a good standard of care through the PIMC clinic and Emergency Department. Commissioner prerogatives do not include micro managing the clinical offerings of PIMC beyond those delineated in the Subsidy Agreement. PIMC, a fiscally sound critical access hospital with its own governing board, offers clinical services far excelling those previously offered by our old, and financially failing, Inter Island Medical Center. There are few additional critical access hospital appropriate clinical offerings that the hospital district could request.

Often, commissioners need to make difficult decisions. Recent legal challenges and FOIA/Public Records Act requests have drained already sparse financial reserves. Election costs for recurring levies also siphon off district resources. Because the district and EMS must operate within budgets, the commissioners have asked staff to take reductions in their pay and benefits. At the end of this year, the district’s existing tax levy lid lift will expire. This will reduce taxpayers’ burden by approximately $350K per year.

The existing PeaceHealth/hospital district subsidy agreement accommodates this tax revenue reduction without a reduction in services. Given the current rigorous campaign for hospital district commissioner positions and the unfortunate politicization of a non-partisan race, we encourage our voters to do their homework. Learn about the issues, both real and hypothetical, in light of the duties and limitations of hospital district commissioners. Learn about the candidates and what they propose to do and why. Are their proposals realistic and necessary? Feel free to approach our SJIEMS staff and hospital district commissioners with questions and/or comments. Most important, after your due diligence, get out and vote.