Clearing up Orcas Medical Center facts | Letter

Much of what has been written or placed online recently about the medical issues facing Orcas Island has been misinformed or plainly false. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Instead of attempting to correct or rebut, I wish to point out some important truths about our current choices.

University of Washington Neighborhood Clinics has offered to start a NEW clinic on Orcas Island. This is not a time limited management contract of Orcas Medical Center like the arrangement with Island Hospital. The new clinic would be located in the existing building that was built as a medical facility.

There has been much talk of “unifying the existing medical practices.” Right now, that is not possible even if everyone wants to do it. All the OMC staff are employees of IH until June 30, 2017. There is no way IH would hire a physician – any physician – for OMC at this time. As of July 1, 2017, the hope is that there will be a new entity on the island –UWNC – and OMC will cease to exist. If that comes about, anyone UWNC hires will have to apply for employment. That goes for all the current staff including me – the OMC physician. UWNC has said there is no reason, and it is not their policy, to exclude anyone from applying. It IS their policy to thoroughly vet all applicants and make their own hiring decisions. Even I don’t know if I’ll have a job as of July 1, 2017. The Orcas Medical Foundation has recently restated their long-held position that they support integrating any and all Orcas practices.

UWNC certainly does not want to establish a new clinic in a place they are not wanted. Discussion of a tax district may be appropriate in the future, but right now it is premature. If UWNC does not establish a new clinic here, there is no sense discussing a tax district. If residents of Orcas Island want to have long term, sustainable, quality medical care, we should all come together and show UWNC that they are welcome here. MaryAnn and I have made a contribution to the fund and I encourage all islanders to support the effort as well.

Tony Giefer

Orcas Medical Center