Opinion

What role should Snoqualmie Valley Hospital play?

The name says “Snoqualmie Valley Hospital.” But with the closure of clinics in Fall City and North Bend, the presence of the local hospital district is now centered firmly in Snoqualmie.

It’s tough seeing Snoqualmie Valley Hospital shutter its clinics, when one of the main reasons for supporting the local hospital district’s presence is ensuring that Valley residents have health care choices close to home. Yet, the closures were undertaken to put the local hospital in a stronger position to provide local care.

In 2008, the hospital closed its Maple Valley clinic, in a business-related move — residents in Maple Valley paid no property tax, so the clinic there was mainly a business venture.

But, unlike Maple Valley, residents of Fall City and North Bend pay property tax as district residents. The hospital must ensure that those residents continue to be well-served. One move that might address the balance is a possible future Snoqualmie Valley Hospital clinic in Carnation, as well as the hospital's continued presence at local health seminars and senior centers.

The hospital has had its ups and downs over the last few years. Three years ago, the hospital embarked on its vision to build a newer, more visible campus where the Snoqualmie Parkway meets Interstate 90. King County balked at bringing land into the city for the campus, which, if followed through, could have meant a new hotel and a Bellevue College campus for the Valley. The hospital is still going through litigation from the failed land deal from the operators of the Leisure Time campground.

Selling its existing facility to the Snoqualmie Tribe, the hospital is now pursuing a plan to build a new facility on the Ridge. That project is still going forward, and the district recently extended the tribe's deadline for payment.

Last year, the hospital showed a profit for the first time in its history. The district remains in the black in 2010, and clinic closures are an effort to reposition the district for a whole new era in health care reform.

With federal reform raising many questions about the future role of the hospital, district officials are eyeing new team-based approaches and digital records systems in an effort to combat distance and bring about a more preventative, rather than reactive, approach.

Under new health care rules, it’s becoming too expensive to live in an unhealthy manner. Now is a good time for Valley residents to consider the role of the local hospital in the Valley, and that of health care in their own lives. In a changing health care environment, we all need to take more responsibility for our own health and understand what our needs, options and expectations are.

You’ve only got one body, so take good care of it.

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