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Maintain and improve healthcare on San Juan Island: Vote for Sharp, Williams and Harrington

EDITORIAL: San Juan Emergency Medical Services and Peace Island Medical Center provide excellent healthcare to the community. That doesn't mean there is nothing to improve, nothing to discuss.

What we need on the San Juan County Public Hospital District Board is transparency. We need leaders who are willing to deal straight forwardly with issues facing the hospital district. We don't need more spin and misinformation.

We don't need to be patted on the head and told not to be concerned about the high prices, the restrictions on healthcare services and the use of charity care money to boost PIMC's revenue from Medicare and Medicaid. We don't need to trust that everything will be fine.

This has been one of the ugliest campaigns in island history. The amount of distortions and outright lies is abhorrent. Instead of focusing on issues, some of the candidates have been spreading misinformation about other candidates' motives.

The facts are no candidate wants litigation, no candidate wants the hospital to close, no candidate is seeking to force abortions or assisted suicide at PIMC.

It is hard to get  the facts from the PHD board or PIMC.  The pamphlet PIMC mailed earlier this week manages to evade certain truths through clever editing. For example, it states: "PeaceHealth honors and encourages advance directives." Left out is the fact your AD will be honored "unless it conflicts with hospital policy, law or the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care.

Reading the section on Women's Health, a reader isn't informed that under PeaceHealth's official policy contraceptives are only prescribed if "medically necessary".  

The reference in the pamphlet to cost focuses on two items which PIMC says are lower than other hospitals. What is difficult to reconcile is that overall revenue at PIMC is almost 5 times higher than it was at Inter Island Medical Center ($14 million compared to $3 million). It's hard to believe PIMC's assertion that the increase is due to increased volume. The increased costs due to the use of the expensive Emergency Department for services that could be more appropriately dealt with through an Urgent Care Clinic is not mentioned. 

PIMC is clear their family physicians provide prenatal and newborn care. So did Inter Island Medical Center. Subsidy money - the 97 percent of the hospital district levy tax revenue paid to PIMC - is used for physician healthcare services.

Despite those facts, the PHD board and their lawyer believe maternity healthcare - which by most definitions includes prenatal and newborn care - is not provided through the PHD.  This is an important point because such a stance will likely cause expensive legal bills for the taxpayers. If a PHD provides maternity care it must comply with the Reproductive Policy Act. The PHD does not comply with the RPA.

Taking a common sense proactive approach to this issue would lead to compliance with the RPA rather than to high legal bills. And to reiterate, PIMC will NOT be required to perform abortions. It is up to the PHD to comply, not PIMC. To comply with the state law - which county voters voted in favor of  - is not that difficult.  The PHD can do so through contracts with other agencies.

To do so, it will take board members who accept the reality that PHD subsidy funds DO provide prenatal care. And of course it is a good thing they do. Expectant mothers deserve to be able to get some of their care locally. Obviously, labor and delivery are a whole other ballgame. Except in emergency situations, babies are delivered at mainland hospitals.  

The current board prizes unanimity above anything else. On at least two recent occasions, when appointing people to vacant seats on the board, instead of selecting people with experience in healthcare, they've chosen others whose biggest assets were willingness to agree with the other board members.

This is an important election. We need the most qualified people on the board. There is important work to be done to ensure we continue to have good healthcare available, that we serve all the demographics and that we pass the EMS levy in 2016.

The choice is clear of who to elect to the three open positions on the five-member board. Barbara Sharp, Bill Williams and Monica Harrington are each highly qualified and motivated to work with the entire board to make sure the needs of islanders are met. 

Please join me in voting for Sharp, Williams and Harrington for San Juan County Public Hospital District Commission. Let's get this divisive election behind us and work together for the good of all of us. 

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