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Commissioner vs. commissioner: Q&A with Snoqualmie Valley Hospital District opponents Kevin Hauglie, Gene Pollard

Kevin Hauglie, left, incumbent, and Gene Pollard, who holds a commissioner
Kevin Hauglie, left, incumbent, and Gene Pollard, who holds a commissioner's seat as well, are facing off for Hauglie's position 4 seat.
— image credit: Courtesy photos

In an unusual race this autumn, two sitting commissioners for the King County Public Hospital District No. 4—which runs Snoqualmie Valley Hospital—are facing each other at the polls.

Kevin Hauglie of Fall City is up for re-election in position 4. He is being challenged by Gene Pollard, a county resident, who was elected to position 3 in 2011.

Pollard is running to unseat Hauglie, and says he will resign his position 3 seat if he wins.

The Record asked both candidates about their record, this race and issues facing the district.

Kevin Hauglie

Q: What’s your main reason for running for office? Why should you keep your position?

A: The short answer is to finish what I started, and that is to build a hospital, but that is really an incomplete statement, because the delivery of medical services is evolving. In a hospital setting, you so oftentimes today need a single-person room. Today at the hospital, we turn away about 30 people a month, because we don’t have single-occupancy rooms. When the new hospital is complete at the end of 2014, that’s really just the beginning,  the opportunity to bring new services, both inpatient and outpatient, and the opportunity to truly portray our recognized, best-practices-model swing bed program.

I’m running to provide quality medical care, at a good economic value, to the constituents of our district. Serving on the medical committee initially, and the finance and facilities more recently, I’m on the cutting edge of decisions being made on the new hospital, and I would dearly love to see that job completed. My opponent has a platform, as a sitting commissioner. I think the election is a waste of energy and people’s time, given the reality of the four years remaining on Commissioner Pollard’s term.

Q: Is there an accomplishment you’re proudest of from your past term on the board?

A: I am so proud of our executive team, and their accomplishments with the board of commissioners. Eight years ago, we used to generate about $300,000 in revenue on a monthly basis, and today we’re $2.5 million, approximately. We serve people in about 2,500 visits a month. That’s 30,000 people per year, 30,000 people who say yes.

There’s also the successful tribe negotiation and the payoff of the contract. That enabled us to pay off the eastside campus at $6.7 million, and we retired about $5 million in debt last year. That still leaves us with a substantial amount of debt in our district, but just like any business that’s growing, or any family that has a mortgage, one of the real questions is can we make our monthly payments? The answer is yes we can, and we are doing it.

Q: Your opponent says there is fraud, waste and abuse in the hospital, and claimed you’re part of a ‘rubber-stamp’ board that holds closed committee meetings. How do you respond to that, and how are you, as a board member, accountable?

A: To that, I would simply say be informed. There is no fraud. We are above board. Our committee meetings, these are workshops where we talk about things, we study things, we monitor things, we enlist input from our executive team, and then we come up with recommendations that are brought to the entire board, and that’s the process. We would love to have more people involved. Every year for the last several years, we have taken the meetings out to the entire district in an effort to be transparent. If you’re a citizen in the community, all you have to do is ask. We comply with all the public records acts, with regard to conveyance of information upon request.

Q: How do you balance the needs of taxpayers with the need for local health care?

A: About 48 percent of the total revenue was taxation in 2004. Today, it’s about 8.6 percent—the amount that taxes represent of total revenue. Because our operations revenues have grown so successfully, the taxation today is a very, very small percentage of our total revenue. I think there’s an obligation by the board to carry out the mandate of a public hospital district, and that’s to deliver quality health-care services, and to do it as a fiscally-responsible entity, which we do. Also, last year, we donated in the neighborhood of $1.5 million in charity care.

Gene Pollard

Q: What’s your main reason for running for office? Why should you keep your position? Is an election the way to address Mr. Pollard's concerns?

A: I don’t want Mr. Hauglie to “go” but to play a different role in district governance. Earlier, the district had a “Citizens Advisory Committee” but it faded away. A similar committee is very active in KCPHD #3 (Evergreen Medical Center in Kirkland) and it plays a very constructive role in hospital governance, including serving as a community watchdog and transmitting ideas and initiatives to the board and back to the residents and taxpayers. Mr. Hauglie has valuable experience after having served on the board, and he could be an important part of such a committee.

This is definitely not a personality issue. We just see things differently. The primary problem is the present make-up of the board. There are two commissioners from Carnation (Jones and Young), two from Fall City (Hauglie and Speikers) and only one from the Upper Valley (myself). The people of Preston helped establish the district, but in 30 years, have never had a board member from that area.

Q: Is there an accomplishment you’re proudest of from your past term on the board?

A: There are several, pretty much of equal significance for me. These include: Opening the door, even just a crack, to more open communications with the public. Specifically, we now see the board’s agenda on the website before meetings and approved minutes are posted; Also, I have had perfect attendance at board meetings since assumption of office.

Q: You’ve raised red flags over closed committee meetings, yet your critics argue that you don’t participate. How do you respond to that, and what would you propose for the committee situation?

A: I believe all commissioners should be able to attend all committee meetings, and if they want to, meetings of the staff executive committee and employee meetings led by the superintendent. This is all part of being transparent. State law allows committees to be closed if no decisions are made, as a practical matter, but in our particular case, decision are made in committee and then invariably rubber-stamped by the board.

How do we resolve this dilemma? I believe that we should announce each committee meeting publicly and allow people to attend, including other commissioners. There are times when confidentiality is warranted, however. In those cases, it would be proper in the announcement of the meeting to indicate that “part or all of the proceedings will be conducted in executive session.” I have not attended the meetings of the one committee I could attend, the Medical Committee, because I declined appointment to that committee and the board would not allow me to serve on committees of interest to me, as clearly apparent from my 2011 election platform.

Q: How would you balance the needs of taxpayers with the need for local health care?

A: We need further work in identifying Valley health care needs (What are the reasons for the Valley’s higher rate of suicides, for example?)

Secondly, we need more public involvement in hospital affairs to help identify those needs and get feedback on where the hospital is doing fine and where it needs improvement (see the idea of a community advisory committee). Then we need to make the hospital more cost-effective, including reducing top-heavy management, eliminating fraud, waste, abuse, cronyism, and the like, and hearing more from caregivers on how things can be improved, not just from the front office. A more responsive board, and a more efficient management, will help us achieve the balance.

 

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