Support Orcas Health Commissioners | Letter

Friends, in the flood of bad pandemic news, have you missed the historic GOOD NEWS about Orcas health care happening right now?

For the last 14 years, Orcas has been served by three competing nonprofit MD practices, all financially challenged and unable to provide adequate after-hours care. No authority existed to require otherwise. But in 2018 Orcas finally passed a health care levy and elected

Commissioners to manage the levy funds. They distributed the first levy funds equitably between the three existing Orcas practices, pending further study. Meanwhile, the five-year contract between one provider, Orcas Medical Foundation (OMF) and Island Hospital expired on 12/31/2016. Although Island Hospital could not subsidize the Orcas Medical Center (OMC) with hospital funds, it generously operated OMC for 18 more months until OMF contracted with the University of Washington to do so. In 2018 OMF ceded the OMC facility, built in 1992 by Orcas donors, as well as the UW short-term contract to the Orcas Island Health Care District.

Following many months of transparent meetings, public comment opportunities, and analysis, the OIHCD Commissioners have concluded that they must channel future public levy funds to a single, efficient, unified primary practice, preferably one with an urgent care component. On 5/11/2020 they published a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consolidated Medical Clinic Operator at OMC. The RFP response deadline of 6/21/2020 might be extended but in fact, all Orcas health providers and potential bidders, particularly the current operator UW, have anticipated the RFP for many months.

This RFP is exactly what Orcas has long needed. Hundreds of Orcas islanders have generously donated sweat, time, and money over many years to arrive at this historic moment. Today Orcas has knowledgeable elected managers offering sustainable public funds for a unified primary and urgent care provider at OMC. Thank you, Commissioners. Well done, and please stay the course!

Norm Zimlich

Former OMF President and Treasurer