Consider carefully issue of island health care

If health care services are no longer available on Vashon, what is the impact on your daily life?

  • Wednesday, September 25, 2019 12:24pm
  • Opinion

We’re very fortunate that a dedicated group on the island continues to devote attention to our fragile island health system and has taken a considerable amount of time researching viable options that have worked in other rural communities to put forward a goal of forming a public hospital district for the island. I believe this is the best and possibly only option for our community.

I’ve worked in leadership roles in health care systems for over 40 years, and my review of the issues to provide sustainable health care supports this belief. This is not a novel concept, as that same decision has been reached by 60 communities in this state already.

Please think about what a local health care provider system means to you as you weigh how to vote on these two ballot issues in November. If local health care services are no longer available on the island, what is the impact on your daily life? Below are some examples of possible medical concerns I have heard from friends and neighbors.

• Same-day and urgent-care visits.

• You, your child or elder has a significant cut that needs suturing to halt blood loss.

• You, your child or elder has a significant fever and associated illness and no understanding of the significance of this infirmity.

• You, your child or elder has an ongoing or newly-onset medical condition.

• You are a newly diagnosed diabetic and need monitoring to establish control of your disease and the appropriate level of treatment.

• You are an asthmatic that requires adjustment of medications to establish control of your disease.

• You are feeling ill and need a medical provider to manage the process of healing.

• Blood draw or urine testing services. Yes, you can have your Seattle provider send a prescription to our local pharmacy for medication, but you may need the testing below to start or continue therapy.

• You are prescribed a medication that requires a blood test prior to starting or continuing the medication.

• You are prescribed a blood thinner that needs blood draws to determine the correct dose for continuing treatment.

There are many other examples of routine services offered by an island health care center that would go away if we have no local provider system. We do not have stable funding to recruit another system. You or your family will need to go off-island each time for one of these services. Each trip is another ferry fee and loss of work or school time.

One of the comments I hear is the belief some other provider system will come, sort of a “Field of Dreams” approach to the issue. You should ask who is coming, when will they open a clinic and who is arranging with this health care group for them to come to the island?

I submit people offering this solution have not done their homework to support their claim. If they have, they should come forward with their solution. Given the island’s track record of financial loss with many systems, no other provider group has expressed an interest in going into a money-losing clinic setting.

Among opponents, there seems to be a mistrust in the commissioners’ stewardship in setting the levy and use of the funds. The candidates are island residents who have agreed to take on this large task of setting up a public hospital district and establishing a health care system that meets our island needs. Attend the upcoming candidate forum, and hear from them directly about their ideas, plans and approaches. Educate yourself on the candidates’ positions. As of now, eight of the candidates have pledged to waive a stipend or compensation for their work.

Please consider this upcoming issue carefully, become educated from people who have studied the health care landscape and have done their homework on this issue — and vote in November.

Collin Hennessey has over 40 years of experience in senior leadership roles with integrated health care delivery.

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