Thoughts about the Upcoming Public Hospital Board Election:

Dear Editor,

It continues to be a privilege to serve the children and families of San Juan Island. On several occasions I have been encouraged to seek a position on the Public Hospital Board. While honored, I have declined as a Canadian and therefore ineligible to seek public office. Additionally, I believe physicians may be consultants, but it is unwise for them to be on the Board.

The upcoming vote for multiple positions is the most important election in my 11 years living here. That said, years of practice and community involvement has allowed the development of a perspective about the state of local health care and a duty to share it. These views are mine alone and are not driven by any personal agenda. Individual care in the traditional sense is solid in all settings. Island-wide, quality of office, clinic, EMS, and emergency room care (all in the absence of publicly available data) appears to be sound. My professional and personal experiences with most of the players and facilities have been excellent. However, there are many issues that demand inquiry and remediation.

The mingling of private parochial and public funds in the development and evolution of PIMC has yielded predictable consequences. There are issues of communication, transparency, as well as a disregard for the Laws mandating all aspects of women’s health and of end of life decisions.

Multiple requests on my part for real information to clarify published self-serving fanciful “data” have been routinely ignored. Although I have not personally sought it, others have requested financial details from EMS and been rebuffed, and more recently, demeaned. As long as this lack of access remains, voters will continue to distrust these institutions and to defeat requests for increased taxation. Public funding requires accountability.

Those in public service do so out of commitment to and love of their friends and neighbors in an often thankless job. However, this Board must be held responsible for the current state of affairs. For years it has suffered from a failure of leadership, a reactive rather than proactive “circle the wagons” mentality, and a lack of vision. In addition to the obvious problems, there has been a failure to address a variety of other health crises. These include but are not limited to pain management with associated prescription opiate addiction, the lack of mental health care for children and youth, and the widespread antipathy towards and mistrust of PIMC, EMS, and the Board itself.

The current election provides an opportunity to begin a process of healing and movement forward. Fortunately, the published statements of the candidates are quite clear. Three of them understand the issues at hand and are committed to the rule of law and to the future. Three others hold positions that are either condescending, naïve, or support the failed status quo.

Based on long observation and a desire for the best interests of San Juan Islanders, I recommend voting for Harrington, Sharp, and Williams.

Mark Fishaut, MC


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