Letters to the editor | Sept. 29 edition

Community members weigh in on Sea Mar/Health Care District conflict, bicycle safety


VHCD, a community voice in island health care

Vashon residents believe that part of living on an island is taking care of our own, and having a voice about services that are offered. This was abundantly clear in the island’s unique response, through VashonBePrepared, to the COVID pandemic which sought to provide testing, tracing and vaccination services for all Islanders.

For the past several years Sea Mar, a large Seattle-based corporation that promotes bilingual and bicultural services to Latinos in Western Washington, has operated our medical clinic with a large subsidy from island taxpayers, making a substantial profit in the process.

Unfortunately, and contrary to what is advertised, after working with the island Latino population for the last several years, it is clear to me that the needs of the Latino population and many of our underserved neighbors have not been well served. Despite multiple requests to either provide an interpreter or to facilitate regular visits by one of their bilingual physicians, Latino patients have had to rely on bilingual island volunteers to help them navigate the system and understand their health problems. This can result in serious complications when problems are not addressed in a timely manner.

The Vashon Health Care District (VHCD) board of commissioners has continued to advocate for the unmet health care needs on the island including bilingual, after-hours and walk-in care, certain types of acute care and coordination of mental health services.

The goal of VHCD and islanders with healthcare experience has been to advocate for medical care that is accessible to all and is responsive to the particular needs of our island. If we have no voice in how a large organization operates on the island, then we will be unable to advocate for our residents whose needs are not met.

A single clinic on Vashon should be able to provide more comprehensive care, because it is not the same as a clinic in Seattle or other rural areas where healthcare choices are more readily accessible for all. Islanders need to have a voice to ensure that Vashon’s unique needs and diverse population are addressed.

Dr. Lydia Aguilar

Collaboration and mutual respect are needed

As a 45-year resident of Maury Island who received excellent care at the original Vashon Maury Health Services Center from Drs. Mary Hoagland-Scher, Mary Ellen Walker, Gail Fulton, and Kim Farrell, who has been distressed over the past several years by the departure of medical provider groups, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Sea Mar for taking the Vashon-Maury community on when others had given us up — and becoming a prominent and successful primary care provider on the Island.

As a current member of the outreach committee of the Vashon Health Care District (VHCD), I know first-hand that your elected VHCD commissioners are thoughtful, concerned citizen volunteers who take their fiduciary responsibility with the utmost seriousness. The commissioners have a duty to oversee the provision of medical care. It would be negligent on their part to say “mission accomplished,” and let Sea Mar do their thing with no oversight — even if, at the moment, it seems the most expedient and least expensive thing to do.

There have been a number of situations on Vashon wherein off-island entities seemed to be our saviors, only to leave with islanders’ donated (or King County) dollars and little to no plan to replace these services on the Island.

Examples include the exit of Vashon Community Care (there went my old-age plan #1), abandonment of Mukai House (through the defunct Island Landmarks), the YMCA bailing out after not too many years in the current 4 Paws Vet clinic building, and, of course, the bye-byes from CHI Franciscan and Neighborcare at the Vashon Health Center.

I believe the VHCD commissioners are well within their prerogative to ask for specific metrics and information from Sea Mar so that they can adequately fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to the Vashon-Maury community. Sea Mar’s apparent non-collaborative approach is paternalistic, and, frankly, disrespects the Vashon-Maury community.

A return to collaboration and mutual respect is needed so that we can all concentrate together on continuing the tradition of quality care for all on Vashon-Maury.

Debby Jackson

Commissioners doing their jobs

As a long-time Vashon Island resident and former Vashon Park District Commissioner, I want to thank the Commissioners of the Vashon Health Care District (VHCD) for doing their job.

Simply put, that job is to look after the interests of Vashon taxpayers who have entrusted a portion of their property taxes to VHCD to operate a health care facility on Vashon. We voted these folks into office, and if we don’t like what they are doing it is our job to become candidates ourselves or to vote them out of office — but to my mind, so far, so good.

In any event, they are responsible to us. By contrast, Sea Mar which operates the clinic under a contract with VHCD, is a large, nonprofit organization that operates all over the state. It is not directly responsible to the Vashon electorate at all.

I do want to thank Sea Mar for coming to Vashon and appreciate the excellent care I and many others have received from doctors and staff there. The voters of Vashon cannot vote them out although VHCD can and should make their continued presence on Vashon contingent on meeting goals appropriate for the island.

The goals of the clinic should be VHCD’s goals, not Sea Mar’s, whatever they might be.

I share with VHCD commissioners their puzzlement at how Sea Mar could suddenly not need the large subsidy it had requested only months earlier. At this writing, Sea Mar’s proposals to the Vashon community seem too good to be true.

As students in my father’s Vashon High government and economics classes learned a couple of generations ago or more: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I have great confidence in the VHCD commissioners, at least one of whom sat in my dad’s class, to sort this out.

Douglas Ostrom

District should dissolve

As a five-decade resident of the Island who has watched what has happened with various health care scenarios, I encourage the Vashon Health Care District (VHCD) to dissolve itself.

The island has a wonderful opportunity to have a stable clinic, built by Sea Mar that does not involve Islanders’ property tax dollars. Sea Mar has a 40+ year history, under the leadership of the same CEO. They have established a solid track record of delivering care to our region. And, they have a solid financial reserve.

Having two clinics is a huge mistake for the Island. A building does not provide healthcare to people. Providers do. What provider will VHCD attract when there is a competing Sea Mar clinic? Remember, the island could not attract any other provider during their search.

Sea Mar will not provide emergency services. And neither will VHCD. This was not a part of the initial vote. Individuals will continue to seek off-island specialists for their disease care. We have other individual providers delivering competent care outside of the clinic. So why is there a need for two competing clinics?

Please dissolve the health care district.

There should be no embarrassment. There should be celebration as there will be no need to search for providers, and Sea Mar will deliver the long-term care we have all been wanting for the island. VHCD has actually paved the way for this to happen.

We should thank the commissioners for their hard work, and support them through this transition, and ease the tax burden for islanders by the dissolution of the health district.

Priscilla O’Banion

Bicycling on Vashon

Time To Quit

In my 20s, I owned a motorcycle. The word amongst all the bikers was that you had to know when to quit or you’d take a trip to the hospital or worse.

Now here on the island, that wisdom applies to bicycles. I’ve been riding a bicycle for 78 years, but it has become too dangerous to do it on the island.

On Aug. 16, my partner and I were on our bikes, turning left at 115th Avenue and Cove Road. My partner was ahead of me, well into the turn. I caught the movement of a fast-moving vehicle passing us on the left. I screamed to my partner, swerved to the right, and fell on my right side. The vehicle passed within less than a foot of my partner, and the driver never stopped.

On Sept. 22, I was riding west on Cove Road. A vehicle passed on my left. There was a pile of two-by-fours sticking out three feet from his right rear window with no red flag attached. Had he passed by me any closer, my head would’ve gone in one direction and my torso in another. I don’t think even George Carlin would have seven words to describe this clown.

I agree that most drivers on the island are polite, but it only takes one thoughtless person to kill you. And by the way, there’s more than just one. Until cars and bicycles are on separate thoroughfares, you’re seriously risking your life.

So where can I buy my 5,000-pound SUV? I’d like to begin making the same contribution to the atmosphere that everyone else is making.

Shelley Simon