A new survey seeks to illuminate a tough issue | Editorial

Islanders should answer the survey that a small group of health care activists has created in an effort to assess the extent of Vashon’s unmet health care needs.

It’s short and easy, a simple task for most of us. But it could help to illuminate some difficult issues that have long plagued the Island. According to anecdote and rumor, some Islanders can’t afford health care on Vashon and are turned away by providers. This survey may help to determine just how extensive that problem is, if at all. It offers up a chance to ferret out the truth.

The group that’s putting forward the survey should be commended for the effort. These are people who are passionate about health care and worry about what might happen if Medicare reimbursement rates are slashed again. They worry that Highline Medical Group, unable to turn a profit at its Island clinic, the Vashon Health Center, might walk away from the Island at some point. They worry about Vashon’s vulnerability. 

Borrowing a page from VashonBePrepared, the Island’s much-heralded preparedness group, Vashon’s new Health Care Council, as they call themselves, wants to find a way for the Island to take care of its own when it comes to health care.

It’s a daunting task. The forces that are putting health care out of reach for some, the problems with Medicare, the pressures primary care physicians face — these are thorny, nationwide issues, much bigger than those a small Island-based committee — even a smart and committed one — could likely address.

But as this group realizes, Vashon is also known for its resourcefulness. If there were a way for a community to find a path through this bewildering maze of forces, Vashon just might be able to do so. And why not try?

We also encourage Vashon’s providers to talk honestly to this group. Conversations with providers, the committee’s next step, could be particularly illuminating. Providers are in the trenches; they’re seeing first-hand the way the shifting health care landscape is playing out in the lives of ordinary people. Their observations will be critical in helping this new committee fully understand Vashon’s situation.

Over the years, some tensions have cropped up between Highline and its Vashon landlord, the Sunrise Ridge board, and between Highline and Granny’s Attic, which provides the Vashon Health Center more than $9,000 a month to offset its operating costs. We hope that those who are closest to this situation will set aside those differences and engage in good faith. An opportunity is before us, and much is at stake.

The online version of the Health Care Council’s survey is located at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/V3KHQG2. Paper versions are currently available at Vashon Youth & Family Services, the Vashon Pharmacy, Vashon Bookshop, Vashon Print & Design, Cafe Luna, Minglement and The Burton Mercantile.



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