Orcas Island Health Care District works on writings its rules

Members of the Orcas Island Health Care District commission spent seven hours discussing its policies, positions, expectations, contracts and bylaws during a four-hour working session on June 11 and a three-hour regular meeting the following day.

Topics at the workshop included outlining the nature of services the district will be requesting from island medical providers; a definition and outline of sustainable primary and urgent care services; and the skills and services required of medical providers regarding primary and urgent care.

In April 2018, voters approved the creation of a public hospital district to help fund medical services on Orcas Island. The district commissioners will host a public hearing at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 21 at the Eastsound Fire Station to set a temporary tax levy rate to secure a loan from the county to fund the operation deficits through the remainder of the year.

Ultimately, the commissioners wanted to reach a consensus on what collaborations could be achieved between the clinics, EMS and other community health organizations. The commissioners also discussed minimum levels of service for the clinics to provide primary and urgent care – such as clinic hours, ease of access, seasonal demand variations, after-hours availability and patient affordability.

The commissioners also talked about how to proceed with contracting between the two existing island clinics – Orcas Family Health Clinic and UW Medicine Orcas Island Clinic. According to documents on the health care district’s website, both clinics have expressed the need for supplemental operational funding beginning this October. Additionally, UW Medicine previously informed the hospital district that it is in need of a new X-ray machine.

As it stands, UW Medicine has a contract with the Orcas Medical Foundation expiring in the fall of 2021, and OFHC does not have service contracts with any entity in the community. It is now up to the commissioners to enter into contracts with both providers to secure funding and set service expectations.

UW Medicine will start operating on a contract without funding on July 1 with payment due in October, and according to commission documents, funding for 2019 must be established by mid-October to fulfill the requirements of the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) for public hospital districts. A budget hearing must be held no later than Nov. 15.

OFHC has previously stated that it cannot operate without supplemental funding previously provided by local philanthropists. According to district documents, the financial need for OFHC is immediate.

Commissioners discussed developing memorandums of understanding with the clinics – a temporary contract – for the fourth quarter of 2018 to help them finish out the year. These MOUs would be in effect until Jan. 1, 2019.