Hospital bond doesn’t address real needs | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
May 16, 2011 · Updated 8:42 AM
To the editor:
I heard the pitch by Whidbey General Hospital officials for the $50 million bond issue, and was bothered by the focus on competition with off-island hospitals and the need for more profits. It was more like a pitch commercial enterprise instead of a public hospital.
I support local control of our hospital but I have concerns about the needs the bond ignores.
A new hospital wing with private beds may be needed. But, most people needing medical care don’t need hospitalization. They need urgent care, or they need to see a doctor for care that keeps them from being hospitalized. Whidbey General is failing short in providing these services, and the $50 million bond proposal will not address the problem.
Hospital officials agree that the island needs urgent care. They say the way to meet that need are being “investigated.” But, finding a model that works, “in terms of cost and personnel” is proving to be “difficult.”
The hospital’s mission includes, “serving many citizens who don’t enjoy the benefits of adequate insurance coverage or easy access to healthcare.” Those benefits are to be provided through the hospital’s rural health clinics. However, the clinic in Langley was closed, and new patients must wait more than a month to see a doctor at the Oak Harbor clinic. The wait at the clinic in Clinton is 10 to 14 days and then limited to two new patients a day. I’m one of the people who had to go off-island for care that couldn’t wait.
Clearly, the hospital doesn’t mind losing some patients to the off-island competition. Evidently, the bond proposal is aimed at big-ticket items that bring in the big bucks.
The cost and timing of this bond IS an issue.
The projected increase in property taxes may not seem like much, but the financial hits add up. People are being laid-off, furloughed, foregoing cost-of-living increases and losing benefits. The county saw delinquent tax notifications triple from last year.
I asked how CEO Tom Tomasino’s salary of $230,000, plus $6,000 travel allowance and other benefits, could be justified in these hard economic times.
The CEO’s salary amount, which couldn’t be remembered by the hospital board’s chair, was dismissed as “not that much.” I found the answer both disturbing and revealing.
I don’t mind paying taxes for services that benefit others. We can all make sacrifices, just as some public officials have done by taking voluntary cuts in pay. Show me such sacrifices at Whidbey General Hospital, along with some concrete plans to provide urgent care and much needed timely care through our clinics. Then I’d feel better about supporting this bond issue.