Orcas Medical Foundation is looking to future for all of Orcas | Guest Column

by the Orcas Medical Foundation

For 60 years, Orcas Medical Foundation has been dedicated to serving the medical needs of all on Orcas Island. We have always sought the best possible medical care available. Our Orcas Medical Center staff has been there for patients and non-patients alike, during regular office hours and after hours, and OMC has never turned away a patient who lacked ability to pay for needed care.

We have done our best, as have other practices on Orcas, and we believe our long-term goals are the same. However, we believe we have reached a time when our community needs to look to the future, beyond past differences and beyond the time when two of our island’s practicing physicians retire. We need long-term stability and lasting assurance of the highest quality of care possible. We need for our remote community to keep up with advances in medical practice, research and technology. We need this for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren – for our whole community. These are the reasons OMF reached out to the University of Washington.

UW Medicine responded with a letter of intent, and now we have before us a one-time opportunity to form an alliance with a renowned institution that is rated #1 in the Nation for Primary Care, Family Medicine and Rural Medicine.

OMF has sought this alliance on behalf of the entire community. A UW Neighborhood Clinic on Orcas Island would be available to all. It would be operated and managed by UW Medicine, which would train and update staff through programs from the UW School of Medicine. UW Medicine would make all staffing decisions and be able to expand as needed, drawing upon its Residency and Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner programs for seasonal expansion.

There would be many immediate patient benefits. We would be linked to UW Medicine’s amazing network of diagnostic and treatment services, but still able to choose non-UW Medicine providers and services. Patients’ electronic medical records would be accessible throughout the UW Medicine network, speeding referrals, appointment making and patient information processes, including access to X-rays and lab results from home.

After our OMF announcement and public meeting about the UW Medicine letter of intent, a flurry of statements, many inaccurate, have been written to dissuade support for this effort. We see no gain in arguing about these inaccuracies or past differences; nor do we believe that combining two or more money-losing practices would achieve our goal of long-term sustainability.

UW Medicine already operates and manages 12 successful Neighborhood Clinics. They can share best practices to benefit us on Orcas – and provide the strength and support of their vast research, education, and technology resources. Their non-profit goal is to serve outlying communities such as ours. UW Medicine can provide world-class primary care and long-term sustainability for all on Orcas Island.