Hospital candidates know their subject

The most controversial election this year on Whidbey Island is to see who will replace outgoing hospital board president Peter Borden.

The hospital board created controversy last August when it said Dr. Paul Zaveruha’s Emergency Services director contract would be terminated if he is elected.

Borden has said terminating Zaveruha’s contract is the only way to remove any conflict of interest concerns.

Zaveruha said if his position with the hospital is found to be a conflict of interest, he is willing to take a pay cut to resolve those concerns.

That issue aside, both Zaveruha, and his opponent, Amy Ayers, have decades of experience at the hospital and both are running because they want to help the hospital improve its financial situation.

The hospital lost more than $700,000 in 2002 and laid off staff earlier this summer to make up further revenue losses.

Ayers, who retired as the chief operating officer at Whidbey General in December 2002, sees retaining qualified physicians on the island as one of the best ways to improve the hospital’s finances.

“They really are the gatekeepers,” Ayers said, explaining that more physicians on the island with a relationship with the hospital could refer more patients to the hospital.

To attract more doctors, the hospital needs to improve the compensation they receive and one such form of compensation is Medicare reimbursements.

Ayers said that, when she worked for the hospital, half of the patients were on Medicare.

To improve reimbursements, the hospital should work with groups such as the Washington State Hospital Association and with representatives on the state and federal level, she said.

Ayers said the hospital needs to ensure it has updated facilities and equipment for doctors.

She also added the hospital needs a bottom line to be able to pay for any facilities updates and the hospital needs to look at its processes to ensure efficiency.

Ayers said that any new services the hospital considers have to be carefully evaluated to make sure they’re not a drain on already limited resources.

To find other funding sources, Ayers wants to promote the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation to increase endowments to the hospital and appeal to the community for support.

Zaveruha is also concerned about the financial situation of the hospital, but says the board’s policies over the past several years are to blame.

As a former chief of staff and member of the hospital’s medical executive committee, Zaveruha has questioned many of the policies over the past several years, finally deciding to run for the hospital board himself.

He has been a critic of training programs such as Patients First and said the hospital can’t afford to pay for such efforts. That program was aimed at improving customer service.

He wants to see the public hold the hospital board more accountable, encourage public input and create an advisory committee of citizens.

Zaveruha also wants the administration to improve its relationship with the staff and have the board stop “micromanaging” the hospital.

“They should set policies and have (CEO)Scott Rhine administer them,” Zaveruha said.

Retaining physicians is also an important issue for Zaveruha. He said this could be accomplished by having a more consistent compensation package for new doctors hired by the hospital.

He also wants the board to cut back some of the administration at the hospital.

“We have been told by consultants that we are management top heavy,” Zaveruha said.

However, if he’s elected, the first thing Zaveruha wants to do is to patch up his relationship with the board.

“I think I need to overcome the hostility perceived by the board,” Zaveruha said, adding that his experience at the hospital and education in hospital administration makes him a qualified candidate for the position.

“Once the election is over I would expect everyone would work to save the hospital from its current financial difficulty,” Zaveruha said.

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