PHD will give us leverage | Letters

Voting yes for the Public Hospital District is not a vote for UW Medicine.

If the PHD passes, elected commissioners will be able to renegotiate and correct anything in the initial UW contract that hasn’t gone smoothly. They may well consider the overall price tag. Yes, it’s possible that UW won’t accept the commissioners’ new conditions and will bow out.

And if the PHD fails to pass, UW will, without a doubt, leave Orcas. And count on it: no other provider will step in to replace it. Without a PHD and therefore a predictable, sustainable source of assistance to cover the inevitable deficits incurred by rural providers, no medical provider can afford to bring primary and urgent care to Orcas. The financial risks are just too big, given the real costs of medicine today.

But with a PHD in place, commissioners will have the means to attract, negotiate and contract with other primary and urgent care providers. I’ve heard some say that we’ve been fine without a PHD and don’t need one. The notion leaves a few facts out.

Island Hospital left because it incurred unsustainable losses outside their own (Skagit) Public Hospital District. Dr. Shinstrom has stated publicly that his practice cannot continue without PHD support. The Medical Center has not been self-sustaining and cannot survive without a PHD. The Medical Center has stayed alive thus far only because a very small group of people with very deep pockets donated hundreds of thousands of dollars EVERY YEAR. Some of those very generous individuals are no longer with us. The others are not required to underwrite us.

So let’s not kid ourselves: without a PHD we will lose our access to day-to-day local, primary and urgent medical care. With the PHD in place, commissioners will have the financial leverage to negotiate with UW. Or the commissioners can use that leverage to attract and negotiate with other urgent and primary car practices. Vote for the commissioners you consider best prepared for the job. Equipped with a voter-approved public hospital district, they will have real leverage at the bargaining table.

Meg Massey

Orcas Island