Health care district works on 2019 budget

As the November deadline for a budget and levy rate nears, the commissioners of the Orcas Island Health Care District are hard at work. During a regular meeting on Sept. 11, four of the five commissioners discussed their progress.

“I would just like to say the most recent stages in the negotiations with both of the clinics have been extraordinarily productive, and I feel like we’re much closer to reaching mutually acceptable agreements in both cases,” said Commissioner Art Lange. “We feel the pressure of a timeline, but I feel much better about that right now. I think we’re in very good shape.”

The OIHCD was formed in April after being approved by voters and consists of five commissioners that were elected at the same time. The taxing district will gather property levy funds up to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value beginning in April 2019.

A 2019 budget is due on Oct. 23, and a public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 6. The budget must be available to the public for review two weeks prior to the hearing.

According to district Superintendent Anne Presson, the biggest area that need work in the next few weeks are contracts with the UW Medicine Orcas Island Clinic and the Orcas Family Health Center. She hopes to have those contracts finalized next month.

“I think we made tremendous progress toward a contract. I think that we’re on a good path now to meet the deadlines that we need to meet,” Presson told the Sounder regarding commission discussions with UW Medicine. “Obviously both clinics are equally important and serve surprisingly a similar volume of patients. So we’re very actively engaged now with Orcas Family Health Center.”

The commission hosted its first of two scheduled town hall meetings on Sept. 8. The next is Thursday, Sept. 20, from 6–8 p.m. at the Eastsound Fire Station.

At the first session, approximately 40 people –most of whom were over the age of 40 – showed up. Commissioners said during the Sept. 11 meeting that they’d like to engage younger community members, as health care affects everyone regardless of age.

Presson regularly updates the website with the latest information on the district’s progress and is seeking an answer to the best way to garner the attention of all the island’s audiences.

“We’re really interested in making sure that the public is informed and engaged and feels a part of our process, so we’re trying to make sure we find ways to connect with people,” Presson told the Sounder. “We continue to explore what makes the most sense. … We really want to engage and we understand that everyone gets their information in different forms.”

Along with talk of establishing a budget for 2019, the commission also has drafted a document outlining the requirements for acute and after-hours care for both clinics.

Additionally, the commission briefly discussed a loan for next year for $800,000 with an additional $250,000 line of credit to support the district until levy rates are collected beginning in April.

After a brief discussion, the commission settled on a $250,000 line of credit as opposed to $200,000 to allow for some “breathing room.”

“We likely won’t need the line of credit until 2020,” said Commissioner Patty Miller. “We’ll make the right decision at the time.”

The OIHCD board of commissioners meets every Tuesday from 4–6 p.m. at the Eastsound Fire Station.