Hospital district is correct tool to fix problems

An op-ed piece appearing in the Sept. 12 edition of The Beachcomber argues that the process being followed for the very necessary creation of a public hospital district for Vashon and Maury Islands is “flawed” by virtue of the fact that for the first time, elected representatives of our community will have a direct voice in helping craft health care for our families and neighbors (“Proposed hospital district: Fix flaws first”). With all due respect to the author, we believe this view is misguided.

It is crucial that island residents participate in supporting and sustaining health care on the island. The lack of direct local oversight and accountability is precisely what is addressed through creation of a hospital district. In practical terms, Vashon is voting to take control of their health care decisions from outside corporations, providing options to craft medical services that are available to all.

Since 1945, the state of Washington has supported public hospital districts to serve communities in need. That framework provides for a community to elect commissioners tasked with managing a district, including the raising of revenue for the district. Not only will all their meetings be open to the public, the commissioners’ ability to increase levies is capped at 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value annually under current limits set by the state on junior taxing districts. Anything beyond that amount will have to go to a vote of the people for approval.

We anticipate that the Vashon junior taxing districts will work to divide up the shared taxing authority to benefit the community and resolve differences — for the benefit of the entire island community. Like all elected officials, these individuals are accountable only to the people who elect them to office and must stand for election regularly.

In her op-ed, Sheri Reder agrees that a public hospital district is a “great way to raise funds,” but suggests the Legislature should be called upon to create a special district for only Vashon Island and eliminate the power of hospital board commissioners. This suggestion is not practical. Existing and appropriate legislation provides a solution for the creation of the precise district being sought — a process that over 60 other communities across the state have used.

Hospital districts are designed to provide local input and management of important health care decisions, with local elected oversight a key component to building responsive, accountable and quality care. The island has previously gone multiple months without health care, and we do not want to see that repeated ever again. We have the correct tools to fix our problem. They are in place now. Let’s use them.

— Rep. Eileen Cody, RN, Chair House Health Care Committee

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon

Sen. Sharon Nelson

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