The Eastsound Fire Station meeting room was filled for a roundtable meeting with island medical providers on March 29. Orcas Island Community Foundation Executive Director Hilary Canty moderated the discussion between the island’s two existing clinics – Orcas Family Health Clinic and UW Medicine Orcas Island Clinic (formerly Orcas Island Medical Center operated by Island Hospital).
In preparation of the April 24 election for the creation of a public hospital district on Orcas – ballots were mailed on April 3 – OICF organized the medical provider roundtable for the clinics’ staff and doctors to share their opinions on the proposition.
Representing OFHC was Office Manager Aaimee Johnson and Dr. David Shinstrom. For UW Medicine, Dr. Michael Alperin attended in person while UW Medicine Executive Director of Neighborhood Clinics Debra Gussin phoned in. Orcas Medical Foundation President Leslie Murdock and Treasurer Keith Walstrom, as well as Orcas Island Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Williams, were also present.
The audience was asked to write down questions for the panel. Topics of discussion included the two facilities’ annual patient counts, what services they provide and the offices’ financial deficits without subsidies.
All medical provider representatives emphasized that should the public hospital district not pass, the future of health care on Orcas is in jeopardy. Williams said that OIFR is only able to provide life-saving measures to get the patient to a hospital and does not provide primary care services like prescribing medications or stitching lacerations.
“You do not want me giving you primary medical care,” joked Canty, who is also a volunteer emergency medical technician for OIFR.
“If we were to get a reduction in the medical practices and services on the island, it would put more of an emphasis on all of you to be more proactive in your health care,” Williams said. “If you need those invasive procedures and medications – we have currently one paramedic that tries to balance that out, and it’s difficult.”
Johnson and Shinstrom told the audience that they hope funding is distributed equally among the primary care providers on island.
“The tax dollars are going to come from all of us, and for there to be care available only in one spot or another would be wrong, and I think that all the commissioners understand and believe that in their hearts as well,” Johnson said.
Gussin added that she would like to see UW Medicine remain a partner in the primary care discussion on Orcas and said that the clinic is working to fix any perceived shortcomings to better serve the community.
“We’re here to serve in the best way we can,” Gussin said. “We would love to be a part of that solution. I think we’re just incredibly honored and privileged to be a part of the services in the community now and would love to continue to do that over the long-haul.”
Murdock and Walstrom said that should the PHD succeed, they would like to see the medical clinic building turned over to hospital district ownership and also hoped that the district would benefit both clinics and the community.
“We’re hoping that the hospital tax district will apply to both practices so that the practices continue to serve their patients and that it’s an equitable way to fund medical care here rather than relying on philanthropy,” Murdock said. “Needless to say, I’m urging a vote for the public hospital tax district.”