Health care district looking ahead

As commissioners, we are now embarking on two important tasks.

  • Saturday, May 2, 2020 11:45am
  • Opinion
Eric Pryne and Wendy Noble (FIle Photos).

Eric Pryne and Wendy Noble (FIle Photos).

In retrospect, Vashon voters showed great foresight last November in deciding, by a landslide margin, to establish the Vashon Health Care District. Recent developments only underscore the wisdom of that decision. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of supporting accessible, quality primary health care on the island — the district’s mission — all the more evident.

As we have all had our lives upended by the pandemic, the Vashon Health Care District has continued to meet through the use of technology. We would like to give an update on the progress we have made in addressing the health-care needs of the island, and what our next tasks are.

Since taking office in December, the District’s five elected commissioners have devoted much of our time to necessary start-up activities — what amounts to setting up a tiny government from scratch. We’ve hired a temporary administrator. We’ve retained legal counsel. We’ve arranged for interim financing (the district won’t collect property taxes until 2021).

Now we’ve embarked on two of the most important tasks before us: Hiring a permanent superintendent, and finding a health-care partner to serve the island on a stable, long-term basis.

As commissioners, we don’t want to simply accept and maintain the status quo. Our aim is to find a provider partner who will be responsive to the island’s needs, a partner who is the best fit for Vashon, financially and culturally.

During the town halls and the many small meetings that were held prior to the formation of the district, we heard islanders express their concerns, and identify the changes they would like to see in primary care on the island. We have been working hard to identify priority needs by reviewing community input from the meetings over the past year and gathering data.

We have tried to balance the services that people would like to have with what is realistic within our available funding, and what is supported by other sources of information. Data about the patterns of health-care usage, gaps in service and demographics on the island have given us the information we need to present our situation to potential health-care provider systems.

Using a variety of data as well as community input, a committee of two commissioners and five community volunteers has been working since March with consultant Joe Kunkel on a “Request for Proposal” (RFP) to circulate to regional health-care providers.

The RFP will tell Vashon’s story — who we are, and what we can offer a provider partner. Perhaps most importantly, the RFP will contain a “Vision of Care” that outlines what kind of health care Vashon wants.

A draft of the vision was posted on the district’s website (vashonhealthcare.org) earlier this month for public review and comment.

The vision reflects the needs and priorities islanders have been voicing consistently since the fall of 2018. Among them: Improved access to care, expanded hours, same-day care for acute injuries and illnesses, and a greater sense of commitment to the community.

The full RFP should be completed and sent to prospective partners in early May; it, too, will be posted on the district’s website. We’re optimistic it will attract interest from one or more provider systems, and that we can select a partner and negotiate a contract sometime this summer.

At the same time, another committee comprised of two commissioners and two community members has been meeting to search for a district superintendent. This is the person who will serve as the district’s executive administrator, managing all of the district’s affairs and collaborating with the clinic providers. The finalists for this position were interviewed last week, and we hope to have a candidate to present to the full board and the public soon.

We welcome your participation as we proceed with these two important tasks. Commissioners meet on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 7 p.m. – at Vashon Presbyterian Church in normal times, and on Zoom for now. To join us, find the link on the district’s website. Time is set aside for public comment at each meeting.

On the website you’ll find not only the draft Vision of Care and RFP (when it’s ready), but also other key district documents and an opportunity to send us comments in the “Contact Us” link. Please let us know how we’re doing. Thank you for your support!

Wendy Noble and Eric Pryne are Vashon Health Care District commissioners.


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