Opinion

Hospital future: Discussion time begins for Overlake sale, you can be a part

King County Public Hospital District No. 4’s Commissioners are elected by the people, and their role is provide access to good health care in this Valley. For 30 years, they’ve done that through a building, a team and an identity: In short, our own Snoqualmie Valley Hospital. And through good times and bad, through challenges and recessions and expansion plans, a locally run hospital has been a fact of life, a certainty.

This fall, the hospital district commission has to make what's possibly its biggest decision to date. It’s a whole new identity.

The board last month signed a letter of intent to negotiate affiliation with Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, essentially selling the new hospital, now being built on Snoqualmie Ridge just off I-90. If the affiliation is approved, the future of Valley health care lies under the Overlake banner.

Why is this happening? The reasons have to do with the changing world of health care, and how it’s getting harder to go toe to toe with the big organizations. The hospital administration’s perspective is that independents are now partnering with bigger entities so they can compete for health care dollars. They don’t want to be left out in the cold. Some informal talks between SVH and Overlake go back years, but it’s only with the signing of the letter of intent last month that it’s gone public.

A big organization like Overlake certainly could operate our hospital and clinics. But what shape that care might take under Overlake’s mantle, how much local guidance will be involved, what we’ll do here, and who will do it, remains to be seen. Then, there’s the future role of the board, post-sale. Remember, it’ll take a decade or more for the district to pay down its $40 million in back debt. These are all areas where locals should have input over the next month. Part of ensuring the board makes the right decision is by having your say on what matters to you.

So, if you’ve got a wish to see this happen, a concern over health care choices that you’d like to see stay or go, a desire to see the district stick around or dissolve—now is your moment. Send an e-mail, write a letter, or start attending meetings. The board next meets at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday, Aug. 7, at Snoqualmie City Hall on River Street, downtown Snoqualmie.

Your input is timely. The board has until October to make this very big decision, which will affect health care choices in this Valley for the foreseeable future. Anyone whose health care could be affected by this change has a unique perspective that they could and should share. Do so this month, either in writing or in person. We all have a stake in this decision.

• To submit a comment or contact the commissioners, send an e-mail to Valerie Huffman, the district executive assistant, at valerieh@snoqualmiehospital.org. The hospital’s mailing address is 9801 Frontier Avenue S.E., Snoqualmie, WA 98065.

 

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