Neighborcare Health officials will discuss Vashon clinic operations and challenges, and field questions from islanders at a public meeting next week on Thursday.
The Vashon-Maury Health Collaborative, best known for trying to secure health care services for the island after CHI Franciscan announced it was leaving two years ago, is hosting the meeting. The collaborative reconvened after Neighborcare CEO Michael Erikson wrote a column for The Beachcomber last month, where he stated that Neighborcare’s Vashon clinic is continuing to run at a substantial deficit and will need support from the community to make it sustainable. Beginning with the meeting next week, collaborative members plan to hold a series of three meetings for people to better understand the issues at Neighborcare, how primary care has been offered successfully in other small communities, and some possibilities for developing a sustainable clinic on Vashon.
Collaborative member Tim Johnson will moderate next week’s meeting. He noted that the intent of the evening is not for people to raise concerns about any care they might have received from a clinic provider, but for islanders and Neighborcare officials to better understand and address some of the logistical challenges at the clinic currently and how those are affecting patient care. He added that he intends to bring up some of the challenges he has been hearing frustration about, including the current lack of providers at the clinic, the phone system — which routes callers to a central call center, not the clinic itself — and long wait times to schedule appointments.
Johnson, along with other organizers, said he hopes the mood of the evening will not be confrontational, but constructive.
“Hopefully, it will be an exchange of, ‘We are all in this together, so let’s figure it out,’” he said.
Last week, collaborative member Annie Miksch said Neighborcare Chief Operating Officer Meredith Vaughan and Chief Development Officer Joseph Sparacio were expected at the meeting, but late last week Sparacio said Neighborcare representation was still being determined.
Neighborcare opened its clinic at Sunrise Ridge in September of 2016. Since then it has run at a deficit. In his commentary last month, Erikson noted that islanders and Granny’s Attic had provided $600,000 during the first two years and that community members had rallied people to use the clinic to build a patient base. Additionally, he said, Neighborcare has worked hard to be sustainable, but it was still losing money. The clinic was projected to lose $750,000 in 2018, he said, but after recent staffing changes Neighborcare made — including arranging for doctors Scott Chaffin and Gary Koch to leave the clinic this summer — the projected deficit for the year was down to $350,000.
The meeting will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, at the Vashon Senior Center.