Orcas public hospital district holds first meeting

A hospital district for Orcas Island is officially in existence.

During a special meeting on May 8, the five commissioners, who were sworn in just two days prior, were educated on the requirements of office and passed their first resolutions.

For an hour and a half, San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord and Deputy Prosecutor Amy Vira gave a presentation to the commissioners, Art Lange, Pegi Groundwater, Diane Boteler, commission president Richard Fralick and secretary Patty Miller, on the Washington state Open Public Meetings Act and how to handle public records.

Following a brief recess, the first motion, moved by Groundwater and seconded by Miller, was to formally name San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 3 the Orcas Island Health Care District.

The commission elected to use the San Juan County Treasurer as the commission’s treasurer. The establishment and maintenance of a general fund by the treasurer were suggested. However, changes to the agenda for a special meeting are not allowed, so the commission will have to wait until its first regular meeting to entertain a motion to do so.

The commissioners then created four subcommittees to research priorities: technology, legal, finance and staffing. The technology subcommittee (Boteler and Miller) was tasked with creating a website and emails for the commissioners. Miller and Fralick will research financing options, including getting an employer identification number so a bank account can be established. Boteler and Groundwater are working on staffing, such as creating a job description and setting a compensation amount for the future superintendent. Finally, Groundwater and Lange are identifying legal needs of the commission and establishing bylaws.

Orcas voters approved the creation of a public hospital district during the April election to subsidize the existing island clinics. The two clinics currently in operation were previously subsidized by donations from local philanthropists, but that charity pool has slowly dwindled, and the clinics faced budget shortfalls which could lead to closed practices.

Regular meetings for the commission are 4–6 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Eastsound Fire Station. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 15 at the fire station and will end at 5:30 p.m. The June 5 meeting will take place at the Orcas Library. The public is encouraged to attend.