Last week I wrote a column outlining my concerns about the direction being taken by the Orcas Medical Foundation and how their actions do not fulfill their obligation to the community. Now I would like to propose a solution.
If the Orcas Medical Foundation continues to pursue their singular approach to provide medical care for only 25 percent of the Orcas residents and no visitors, no after hour care, with only one doctor and one mid-level provider on staff (this is what is being proposed), there are still significant barriers. If you read the summary of the meeting, $750,000 needs to be raised by January 15, 2017, for anything to proceed and even then it may not. If the $750,000 is raised for start-up transition, up to $300,000 each additional year would be needed to sustain the medical practice in the condition as stated above. At the meeting, there was discussion of an effort to put to vote for a hospital taxing district in November 2017 to cover the ongoing expense. My assumption is this hospital tax would only benefit the Orcas Medical Center patients.
My major concern is that the Orcas Medical Foundation seems to be pursuing this agreement to take care of only the patients of Orcas Medical Center. I believe this is unacceptable. If things stay as they are, I will be encouraging my patients to not donate to the fund for UW Neighborhood Clinics, and if it came to a vote for a hospital taxing district that would only benefit Orcas Medical Center patients, I would encourage a vote of no.
My solution, as I have said before, would be to unify medical practices. Orcas Family Health Center is a fully operational medical practice with three providers, two RNs and an excellent office staff. We have rural health clinic designation with the mission of caring for all regardless of ability to pay. There would be no significant start-up costs. And, there will be 24/7 after hours coverage as Dr. Russell and my practice has provided for several years. For the long-term sustainability, a funding source such as a hospital taxing district would be essential. Perhaps after we unify, we could pursue a relationship with UW Neighborhood Clinics.
We need to unify the medical care for the entire community back into the Orcas Medical Center as originally conceived. This could be our chance to set up a system that provides a long-term, sustainable medical system for the majority of the island.
Now it is up to you, Orcas residents!
David C. Shinstrom, MD, is the medical director at Orcas Family Health Center.