Wendy Noble and Eric Pryne.

Wendy Noble and Eric Pryne.

Pandemic prompts health care district reboot

The Vashon Health Care District is shifting gears in light of the pandemic.

  • Saturday, June 27, 2020 4:13pm
  • Opinion

Covid-19 has disrupted almost every facet of American life. Perhaps no sector has been hit harder than health care.

You’ve read the stories: Doctors and hospitals aren’t just scrambling to address the most widespread pandemic in more than a century; they’re also dealing with unprecedented financial losses as expenses soar and revenues plummet. Providers, large and small, have slashed staffing and services as they search for a new financial equilibrium.

Now, this virus-fueled, industry-wide crisis is compelling the Vashon Health Care District to shift gears as we work to fulfill our mission of supporting accessible primary and related care for islanders.

To carry out that mission, a committee of two District commissioners and five community members, assisted by consultant Joe Kunkel, spent much of this spring composing a “Request for Proposal” (RFP) to circulate to regional health-care provider systems.

The RFP told Vashon’s story: Who we are, what we want in health care, and what support, financial and otherwise, we might offer any health-care system that would agree to operate a clinic on the island after Neighborcare leaves later this year.

The RFP was approved by all five commissioners and sent to regional systems in early May. A number expressed preliminary interest. Meanwhile, the coronavirus raged. Our June 8 deadline for proposals passed with no responses.

It’s clear the outcome would have been different but for COVID-19.

“The main reason for this decision is honestly timing,” one organization wrote in explaining its decision not to respond. “We are focused on mitigating the financial and community impacts of COVID and feel that at this time we need to be laser-focused on taking care of our existing communities… Pre-COVID could have been different.”

We’re disappointed; this wasn’t in the plan. But we’re not defeated; the Health Care District’s mission hasn’t changed. We’re already starting to explore different ways to fulfill that mission.

We’re reaching out again to some of the regional systems that expressed initial interest, to see if there are approaches that still might make collaboration feasible. Two are considering it. We’ve also begun exploring the feasibility of an independent island clinic.

There may be other, less traditional alternatives for providing care. At this point, we’re not even sure what all of them are, or how viable or appropriate they might be. The good news is, the District now has an experienced Superintendent, longtime health-care executive Eric Jensen, to help us sift through possible options. Responsible stewardship of your tax dollars will remain a top priority.

During this reboot, the Health Care District will be seeking both your support and your ideas. Stay tuned. Stay engaged. Contact us through our website at vashonhealthcare.org.

No one anticipated the coronavirus or the havoc it would wreak. Now, like many others, the Health Care District must adapt and find a way through it.

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

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