May 17: PHD board to be presented with alternative uses for $50K

San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 Board of Commissioners will hold a special meeting/work session at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at the Frank Wilson Memorial EMS Building, 1079 Spring Street. No public comment will be taken as this is a work session for the board. 

The board will listen to presentations from San Juan Emergency Medical Services Chief Jerry Martin about the Community Para-medicine program and from San Juan Island Prevention Coalition Coordinator Cynthia Stark-Wickman M. Ed. about the coalition's programs. Two of the board members - Mark Schwinge and J. Michael Edwards M.D. -  would prefer that revenue go to these agencies rather than Planned Parenthood. 

Through negotiations between Peace Health Peace Island Medical Center and the PHD, $50,000 is returned to the district each year for the next two years and is to be used for other health needs. Commissioners Monica Harrington and Barbara Sharp met with Planned Parenthood staff and prepared a draft contract for consideration by the entire board. The local Planned Parenthood Clinic's is projecting a $55,000 budget shortfall next year. 

The contract would provide women's health services including birth control and referrals for abortions. Public Hospital Districts are required under the 1991 voter-initiated Reproductive Privacy Act, to provide the full range of reproductive services if they provide maternity-related services.  According to PIMC's website, maternity services - not including labor and delivery - are provided at the medical center. Abortions, referrals to abortion clinics are not provided. Birth control is provided on a Don't Ask, Don't Tell basis. A patient will find out if her doctor will provide a birth control prescription when she talks one-on-one with the doctor during an appointment. At previous PHD meetings, women have spoken of their experiences of being refused a prescription and being told to make an additional appointment with the visiting specialist in order to obtain a prescription. There is no way of knowing prior to a visit if the doctor follows the Catholic Bishops  Ethical and Religious Directives regarding birth control. According to its website, PIMC abides by the ERDs. 

At a work session last week, Assistant Attorney General Colleen Melody presented information about a  2016 case involving the RPA and Skagit Valley Hospital District. The district lost. They argued since the district doesn't provide elective cesarean sections it didn't need to provide elective abortions. The court ruled the services weren't equivalent and that the RPA was not meant to be interpreted in such a narrow sense. Skagit Valley Hospital District is appealing the decision. 

Jefferson County Public Hospital District did not take the matter to court but instead contracted with another agency to provide reproductive services not available through the Hospital District's other contracts. 

Schwinge and  Edwards have argued that the San Juan Island Hospital District is not subject to the RPA and they want the funds to be spent on other things besides women's healthcare. As part of their argument they refer to an opinion from the PHD's attorney that the PHD was not required to abide by the requirements of the RPA. The attorney was told there was no maternity care provided at PIMC.

Edwards believes substance abuse is a bigger priority and wants the revenue used to tackle that problem. Schwinge presented a motion listing several agencies that should receive funds instead of Planned Parenthood. He has stated he is morally opposed to abortion. His suggestions include end-of-life hospice care, paramedicine and the Prevention Coalition. 

San Juan County has a 0.1 percent mental health and chemical dependency sales tax. According to the county website: 

"Monies are allocated to strengthen and enhance the continuum of care for mental health and substance use services in San Juan County. To receive services through the Community Wellness Program, individuals must reside in San Juan County and meet certain income and eligibility guidelines. CWP services may be accessed by contacting the following agencies:

Lopez Island Family Resource Center 360-468-4117

Orcas Community Resource Center 360-376-3184

San Juan Island Family Resource Center 360-378-5246."

The tax revenue from the 0.1 percent sales tax was $399,879 in 2013, $429,051 in 2014, $464,252 in 2015, estimated to be $430,000 in 2016, and estimated to be $450,000 in 2017.

The North Sound Behavioral Health Organization contracts with agencies in the islands  for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. 


▪ Community Paramedicine – SJIEMS Chief Jerry Martin and Other Officials of the SJIEMS Agency

▪ San Juan Island Prevention Coalition – Cynthia Stark-Wickman M. Ed., CPP Prevention Coordinator, San Juan County Health and Community Services Executive Coordinator, San Juan Island Prevention Coalition

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