Letters to the editor | Sept. 22 edition

Community members weigh in on dispute between Vashon Health Care District and Sea Mar; VashonBePrepared thanks those who help the organization keep the island informed


Health Care District has served island well

I am writing in response to recent statements reported by The Beachcomber maligning the work of the Vashon Health Care District.

Earlier this year I was approached by Health Care District commissioners to serve on an advisory committee, the Strategic Planning Task Force, and offer input on plans for a new clinic facility based on my Island experience.

Throughout several months of advisory committee meetings, I was thoroughly impressed by the thoughtfulness and diligence of fellow committee members as well as District commissioners and the District superintendent with whom I communicated. All of these people are truly working for the long-term interests of Islanders.

I was grieved to read accusations in The Beachcomber of “micromanagement” leveled at the Health Care District by Sea Mar. From my vantage point, I have seen no evidence of Health Care District representatives overstepping their responsibilities. As a taxpayer and as a clinician, I would expect the Health Care District to hold contracted medical groups accountable. That is their job as elected officials.

Sea Mar came to the Island when no one else would. They are to be commended for that. They also came in the midst of the pandemic, a challenging task. As financial support, they have received about $1.5 million per year from the District.

Like many other islanders, I anticipated that with the Health District’s support, medical services would increase. Instead, the trend toward less service continues. It is no surprise that with the end of 24/7 after-hours coverage provided by Vashon Health Center clinicians for over 35 years, the need for more EMS services increased significantly, along with the fire district’s burdens and costs.

As many readers know, I was a firsthand witness to primary medical care on Vashon Island for about 40 years.

I wholeheartedly supported the recent formation of the Vashon Health Care District to stabilize medical care locally. As part of the task force, I helped elicit the input of past and present island clinicians in drafting a letter of support to Senator Patty Murray requesting potential Congressional funding for a new clinic.

Eighteen former and current health professionals who worked at the Sunrise Ridge site signed. That represents very strong support for moving forward.

In summary, long-term facility and medical enterprise planning is the responsibility and business of the Vashon Health Care District. Accountability for the performance of contracted medical groups is the business of the District as well. We should not lose sight of our goals. It is time to move ahead in a positive direction and focus on the care of the people of Vashon.

Gary A. Koch, M.D.

Health care district should focus elsewhere

I’m not particularly interested in the details of any squabbling between SeaMar and our Vashon Health Care District (VHCD).

What matters to me is that a reputable, non-sectarian and financially stable health care provider has made a long-term commitment to the island. Well done! Mission accomplished!

Now please, VHCD, cease and desist in your plans to build your own clinic and focus instead on the yawning chasm of elder care. Rather than build your own clinic and “compete” with SeaMar, solve the next biggest health care problem our island faces. Rather than buy a piece of vacant land and try to build a clinic that you yourselves have acknowledged you’re not experts in managing, figure out how to revive Vashon Community Care or fill the gap left by their collapse.

If you’re not willing to do that, then please accept our congratulations on having solved a huge problem, and stand down. Close up shop and give us back our tax money so we can address other unmet challenges like fully funding our fire department and our parks. Thank you for your service.

Mark Nassutti

Commissioners should bow out

Vashon Health Care District commissioners, take a bow.

You won! You brought a stable health care organization that is providing health care to island residents.

You won! Many island residents support and are thankful for Sea Mar because of the care they receive and have no desire to change providers.

You won! Sea Mar’s business model let them make money and use less taxpayer funding.

You won! Sea Mar wants to bring more opportunities to meet the community’s mental health and dental needs.

You won! Sea Mar wants to stay on Vashon and build new facilities without direct taxpayer funding.

You won! People voted for you to bring reliable health care that would remain on Vashon and you did it. They did not vote for you to run the clinic or maintain your position for a lifetime.

So take your well-deserved bow now!

But do exit the stage gracefully before frustrated, tax-weary residents are compelled to take you all to task for wasting taxpayer funds playing some sort of weird game to keep yourselves relevant.

Barbara Mae Gayle


Newsletter #52: Thank You Team

Last week marked one year of VashonBePrepared’s weekly newsletters, emailed to islanders and also published online in Spanish and English at tinyurl.com/yan39zeh, providing public health and safety updates.

Those 52 newsletters followed months of Emergency Operations Center Situation Reports, a total of 190 of them. As we reach this milestone, I am taking a moment to thank the people who make this extraordinary public health education effort possible.

The newsletter has been made all the more powerful by appearing every week in The Beachcomber, thanks to a suggestion early on in our activation by editor Elizabeth Shepherd. The information also gets out through the Voice of Vashon Spanish language radio show, Mi Gente Latina, thanks to Dr. Lydia Aguilar.

If you could sit in on our intensive editing and fact-checking process, you would be amazed at the quality of thinking, wordsmithing, creativity, and scientific rigor that our reviewers and editors bring to this endeavor.

Thank you to the team: Vicky de Monterey Richoux, Michael Sperazza, Marijke van Heeswijk, Michelle Bates, Pen Stout, Susan Riemer, Terri Vickers, Dr. Jim Bristow, Dr. Zach Miller, Dr. Clayton Olney, Dr. Ina Oppliger, Dr. Karen Baer, and Dr. Lydia Aguilar.

Knowledge saves lives and prevents suffering. The group that works on the newsletter has spread the knowledge and has indeed made our pandemic lives safer on Vashon.

— Rick Wallace, Manager, Vashon Emergency Operations Center