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Three apply to fill South End vacancy on hospital board

Three South End residents have applied to fill a vacancy on the board for the Whidbey Island Public Hospital District, hospital officials said this week.

Holly Schoenknecht, a District 1 commissioner for nearly 15 years, retired at Monday’s board meeting. She said she’s moving within the next year to West Seattle, after 20 years in Langley, to be nearer her grandchildren.

“I leave having been a part of a wonderful team, and am very proud of our accomplishments,” she said when announcing her retirement earlier.

Those who have applied to replace her include three retired and well-qualified professionals.

Herb Weissblum of Clinton was a business and contractual lawyer for 35 years in Boston, Mass. before retiring to the island in 1997. He said much of his professional experience was in representing doctors, psychologists, hospitals and healthcare manufacturers.

Weissblum said his primary concern as a commissioner would be “quality healthcare for all in need of it, and attracting qualified and talented medical providers.”

“I am pleased with the board’s direction toward the planned upgrading of medical facilities and the expansion of care in the South End,” he added.

Since moving to the island, Weissblum has been on the board of the Major Megan McClung Marine Corps League Detachment of Whidbey Island, and is currently a board member of the Northwest Maritime Center/Wooden Boat Foundation.

Hal Seligson, 61, of Langley, has been a full-time Whidbey resident since 2002. He said his entire career has been in healthcare. He retired from the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia University of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, where he was an administrator for 21 years.

“I have been an advocate for local healthcare on South Whidbey since we first moved here,” he said, adding that the hospital board’s “eagerness” to provide good primary care in the South End “is an encouraging sign of their vision for the future.”

He said he would work for a higher level of mental-health and aging-population services, to improve recruitment and retention of physicians, and to explore innovative ways through technology to link the island to the resources of larger medical centers.

Seligson has been instrumental in community efforts, including the project to plant trees on Second Street in Langley and the start of a community garden at Langley Middle School to benefit Good Cheer’s food bank. He also is a precinct committee officer for the Democratic Party in Langley.

Grethe Cammermeyer, 66, of Langley, has lived on Whidbey Island since 1995. She’s a registered nurse with a doctorate’s degree in nursing science and

31 years in military service, including time as chief nurse of the Washington State National Guard and a career in the Veterans Administration Medical Care System, specializing in primary care for sleep apnea and seizure patients.

She resumed nursing after retirement, and updated her credentials with clinical work at Whidbey General Hospital.

She owns and manages Saratoga View, an extended family adult home in Langley, and is a board member of the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation.

She said her primary concerns regarding healthcare on the South End include the relationship between the hospital and the community, lack of community support and the relationship between providers.

“I think building a positive image, such as assuring that the Langley Clinic remains intact, is huge in terms of healthcare support for the community,” she said.

She said she would push for radiation therapy on the island, and added, “Our lack of specialists drives patients off-island for care. That’s tragic, with Whidbey General Hospital being our public hospital, yet it feels like the only ones who know about it and support it are those who have already been patients there and have liked the care.”

South Whidbey hospital District 1 covers all of the island south of Bush Point Road, not counting the Bush Point precinct.

The board will continue to accept applications through September, then commissioners will choose a temporary replacement, with a permanent replacement elected in November to fill the balance of the term. The other board members are Ron Wallin, Paul Zaveruha and Kristy Miller.

Dr. Roger Case, board president, said the board is looking for applicants who are experienced in business and who can attend committee meetings during the day, along with the regularly scheduled board meetings at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at Whidbey General Hospital.

Those interested may submit applications, including resume, to Board President, Whidbey General Hospital, 101 N. Main St., Coupeville, Wash. 98239.

Schoenknecht has been a registered nurse for 26 years, with special interest in bioethics, hospice and home healthcare. She also has been a member of the Community Health Advisory Board and a longtime volunteer with the South Whidbey School District.

Schoenknecht was given a plaque for serving the hospital district.

“She will be greatly missed by all of us here at the hospital,” said hospital spokeswoman Trish Rose.

Roy Jacobson can be reached at 221-5300 or rjacobson@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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