Health care district is right to seek answers from Sea Mar

After cascading announcements made by Sea Mar over the course of the past few weeks, islanders seem to be left with a choice as to who to trust in the current dispute between Vashon Health Care District and Sea Mar.

While islanders breathed a sigh of relief this week with the long-awaited reopening of the West Seattle Bridge, there are still plenty of problems left to solve on Vashon.

This week, we again detail the island’s ongoing crisis in terms of health care — an impasse between Sea Mar Community Health Centers and Vashon Health Care District (VHCD).

We believe it is important to remember that there are so many issues at stake — many of which islanders could have never imagined, in 2019, when they voted with a 70% approval margin to establish VHCD as a taxing district to oversee and fund Vashon’s health care infrastructure.

These include a two-year pandemic, which was still in its first terrible bloom when VHCD first engaged Sea Mar — with no other offers from any other providers on the table — to run its Sunrise Ridge clinic in late 2020.

Now, after cascading announcements made by Sea Mar over the course of the past few weeks, islanders seem to be left with a choice as to who to trust in the current dispute between VHCD and Sea Mar.

In a commentary on this page, the commissioners make a compelling case to islanders that Vashon still needs to retain measures of control over its health care infrastructure.

Rightly, they point out Vashon’s painful history of “other off-island organizations [that] have come to Vashon with big plans, only to abandon the island later when things didn’t go as expected.”

We believe that the commissioners — a group of highly qualified and well-known islanders — are worthy of our trust and continued patience as they seek more information from Sea Mar on how it intends to remain a sustainable presence on Vashon.

And while some readers have also weighed in with letters to the editor that suggest their readiness to trust in Sea Mar’s plans, we still have questions, too. That’s why we deeply appreciate the perspective of Dr. Gary Koch, one of Vashon’s most trusted healthcare leaders, who has also weighed with support of the work of VHCD commissioners this week.

We know that our community works best with deep and sustained community involvement in its public institutions — a fact illustrated in our story this week about how one group, Partners in Education (PIE), has long provided crucial contributions to our island schools.

This issue of The Beachcomber also details how VashonBePrepared, another highly organized and effective local group, continues to serve the island’s public health in a partnership with Vashon Pharmacy to provide upcoming high-volume booster clinics.

These organizations — along with many others on Vashon — make it clear that Vashon works best when it works together, in an involved, committed and deeply local way, to look after its own interests.

We’ll continue to report on developments between Sea Mar and VHCD, which are still far from being completely clear, much less resolved.

An island needs a newspaper that is deeply dialed into issues such as the one we now suddenly face in our health care landscape. But again, we can do this work best together, with input and contributions from our community.

Stay tuned.