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Two visions for Valley hospital’s future | Q&A with Dick Jones, Dariel Norris

Dick Jones, incumbent, and Dariel Norris, challenger, seek the same King County Public Hospital District 4 seat. - Courtesy photo
Dick Jones, incumbent, and Dariel Norris, challenger, seek the same King County Public Hospital District 4 seat.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

King County Public Hospital District No. 4 sees a second contested race this fall. Sitting commissioner for position 2, Dick Jones of Carnation is challenged by Preston resident Dariel Norris.

Below, Jones and Norris weigh in on district’s challenges and their vision for local health care, answering five questions from the Record.

Dick Jones

Q: Why do you want to hold this office?

A: As a life-long resident of the Snoqualmie Valley, I know this community and am invested in the health and wellbeing of the community. I want to give back to the community that has been so generous to me. I want to see the new hospital project through to fruition and to accomplish this goal that the hospital district started so many years ago. I have helped guide this district through the tough years and am excited and optimistic for the district’s future.

Q: In layman’s terms, what do you do on the hospital district board? And why is it important?

A: The board of commissioners is the governing body of the hospital district. We set strategic priorities, hire and oversee the performance of the superintendent, and we are responsible for the district’s financial management. We are accountable to the public who elect us. As board president, I have worked with my colleagues and our staff to implement a range of initiatives to reduce the cost of health care and to ensure access to affordable care.

With the advent of health care reform, we know that medicine and health care delivery is rapidly changing. We must adapt as well.

Q: What do you see as the hospital’s biggest current challenge?

A: The biggest challenges facing the hospital district are the same issues facing health care organizations around the country.

One, ensuring that our community has access to high quality, affordable health care.

Two, navigating the uncertainties of health care reform.

Three, implementing technological advances in all of our health delivery operations.

Q: Is there a transparency issue with this district? How would you address it?

A: I am committed to transparency and openness. All our board meetings are held in strict compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act.  Any citizen can attend our board meetings, engage in public comment, and seek documents pertaining to financial management.

Citizen input and access is important to the hospital district, which is why we embarked on a listening tour by holding public meetings, throughout each of the communities in the hospital district. This was really a good experience. We would like to explore ways to get more citizen involvement at our public meetings.

I believe in a collegial, respectful relationship with my colleagues. Board members need to respect our individual differences but at the same time work to achieve our mission, which is to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our community.

Q: What’s your vision for the hospital in the next decade?

A: I would like to see the hospital district expand to offer a full range of preventive care services, particularly cancer screening programs. We are in the process of building a replacement hospital that will open in the first quarter of 2015, allowing for expanded services... As board president, I have worked with my colleagues and our staff to implement a range of initiatives to reduce the cost of health care and to ensure access to affordable health care. The board commissioned a study of the health needs of the community as part of our responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act. We know the community needs and uses our primary care, speciality and women’s clinics. Now, we are offering health insurance enrollment to anyone at our North Bend office. I would like to see the district expand its programs in mental health, which is an area of tremendous need in King County.

Dariel Norris

Q: Why do you want to hold this office?

A: I believe I have the experience and skills that show I can make a difference.  The District is 40  years old and $40 million in debt, my debt courtesy of the King County Hospital District No. 4 commissioners.  There is a need for fiscal responsibility which can be improved with “due diligence” before making a decision. There is a need for transparency to involve the community so that a greater number of the 45,000 residents will use the services that will provide a future. Meeting the needs of a few is not enough to keep the district viable.

Q: In layman’s terms, what do you do on the hospital district board? And why is it important?

A: In my opinion, it is the responsibility of the commissioners to follow the Public Hospital District Commissioner Guide: “The elected boards of commissioners oversee the general conduct of the hospital district affairs, and that there be a person appointed to the statutory post of superintendent to provide reports to the commissioners on the status of district operations.... Commissioners are responsible for overseeing the hospital policies and organization with respect to operation of the district including the delivery of quality patient care.”

Commissioners are also responsible for overseeing and approving the budget process.

Q: What do you see as the hospital’s biggest current challenge?

A: The debt is a real issue, but if the district is viable, the debt can be resolved, which means serving the health care needs of district residents. Presently, the majority of rooms are the swing bed program, a great program but very specific.  The hospital is only as good as the treatment it provides to as many people or patients as possible.  The community has to believe the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital can and will meet their specific health care needs.

Q: Is there a transparency issue with this district? How would you address it?

A: Yes. First, change the board meeting time to 7 or 7:30 p.m., allowing residents a better opportunity to attend.

Post meeting minutes on the web page next day, marked “unapproved,” then change when “approved,” so community knows what’s happening.  Add committee minutes with the chairman’s name.

Replace” Lunch and Learn” meetings with something else at a different time and possibly venue. These meetings are held mid day when most of the community is unavailable.  Many topics or subject matter would be helpful to families with school-age children.

Q: What’s your vision for the hospital in the next decade?

A: My vision is to improve the future viability. If the hospital district reaches out to the younger families helping them with the health care needs that are more specific to them, the hospital district will have a following that will reach to the future. To do this I see visiting nurses engaging new moms, exercise classes, play groups or classes on substance abuse sponsored by the hospital district at public venues.

However, if the district doesn’t engage the younger families, its main focus will continue to be the swing bed program looking more like a nursing home, which isn’t bad, but limiting.

 

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