Spread the word: Get Everyone Insured!

If you gather a random group of 16 people in E Jefferson County, one of them doesn’t have health insurance. You probably come in contact with several over the course of a week (a son or daughter, a neighbor, someone who does work at your house?). So do them a favor. Let them know that they owe it to themselves and their loved ones to check out coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

For many lower income folks, coverage is very affordable, thanks to the subsidies that remain in place. The deadline for signing up for coverage effective January 1st is just ONE WEEK AWAY, December 15th. (However in WA the open enrollment extends to January 15th for coverage effective 2/1/18.)

It is easy to check out options on line.

Go to “Shop for a Plan” on the official website: wahealthplanfinder.org.

There is also help available from certified navigators on Mondays in Port Townsend (9-5 at the DSHS office at 915 Sheridan). People should call Sandra Padilla at 253-280-9880 or email her at SandraPadilla@SeaMarCHC.org.

Everyone (that means you!) can play a roll here to get the word out. There are a lot of myths out there, especially with the Trump administration determined to undermine “Obamacare.” Contrary to popular belief, benefits are in place and will not change for 2018.

Port Townsend City Council Approves Continue funding to CHIP

The PT City Council voted to continue funding support for city involvement with the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). The City has previously voted in favor of funding some of CHIP’s goals, but was waiting on the hospital to hire a program manager to run it. That person is now hired, and the council needed to amend the budget to reinstate the funding, as they had let it lapse in the 2018 budget. There was no debate and a unanimous vote to approve.

This is worth noting because in the race for hospital commissioner, the Jefferson County Medical Society had come out (internally) against CHIP goals, using these goals as reasons to not vote for one of the candidates. It should be noted that both candidates supported the goals of CHIP, including low income housing, which has been shown to help promote mental health goals. We can only hope that the new CHIP manager starts with educating our medical professionals that their assumptions were not in alignment with the 100 or so other community members, including Mike Glenn, who created and supported the CHIP goals .

Cheri Van Hoover narrows gap to Bruce McComas

While still trailing Bruce, Cheri has narrowed the gap to 113 votes. It is  certainly not impossible for her to win, as there are still contested ballots and mail in ballots that will be counted as one batch (for protection of voters’ privacy) on Nov. 28th.  A huge number of ballots cast in the election did not vote for either candidate, likely voting for Prop 1 or a Port candidate. This shows, again, why getting out the vote is so important and that every vote counts in local elections. It could come down to a single vote or two.

Washington state health authority limits quantities of prescribed opioids – Spokesman Review

So this is what happens when know nothing politicians get in the way of medical professionals. First, the pols allow the drug companies to run amok with little or no regulation, telling the medical professionals that opioids like oxycodone are safe to prescribe like candy. That was in the 90s. As it got worse, in Port Townsend, only one doctor would treat the growing pain related issues, the local medical society ostracized him (they didn’t have to worry about the outcomes of their rampant pain prescriptions, they just sent them to him after they were done),  the Feds raided his place, shutting him down, throwing hundreds of patients to the wolves, and never even finding a crime committed. And they did it in Seattle too. Now we find out that it’s at epidemic rate, and the pols  are going to seriously force a cutback on them, without funding more drug treatment beds and money for other treatments. Meanwhile our hospital CEO doesn’t offer help to the sheriff, who is having to often treat these addicts at the jail. Now with the state taking action to stop opioid use, the people with long term pain will likely find themselves drawn to heroin, or other street drugs that are killing thousands just north of us.

A mess, with nothing but finger pointing. Who’s going to take care of low income people with long term pain? Anyone? How?

http://www.union-bulletin.com/local/washington-state-health-authority-limits-quantities-of-prescribed-opioids/article_9c33d6ba-bb3b-11e7-af63-033034e4b32a.html

EVENT: Planned Parenthood Centennial Celebrating over 100 years of clinical health services for women and families

Here’s hoping that the people in the county can put aside their issues over the election for Hospital Commissioner and come together to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Planned Parenthood. If you cannot make it to the event and still want to support the work of Planned Parenthood, your donation will be very appreciated! There is a place on the link below to either buy tickets or just donate (or both!). This event is not affiliated with any campaign. It’s about celebrating the work Planned Parenthood has done on the Olympic Peninsula and across the country.

Saturday, Oct. 21st, 2-5PM

Oscar Erickson Building at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds
4907 Landes St, Port Townsend, WA

Link to tickets or donations

Featuring:
Inspirational speakers
Birthday Cake!
Live music and dancing!

Each ticket holder will receive a coupon for a beverage of choice including; beer, wine, cider or a non-alcoholic drink. Additional beverages will be available for purchase. The bar will be hosted by the Dove House.

Special Thanks to our event sponsors and partners:
Planned Parenthood
Dove House Advocacy Services
Finnriver Cider
Jefferson County Public Health
Midnight Train Blues Band
The Norns
Thunderbull Productions

This event is independently produced on behalf of Planned Parenthood and is not a Planned Parenthood hosted event.

More information at:
https://thunderbullproductions.com/plannedparenthoodcentennial.html

For inquires contact:
Daniel Milholland
360-385-0519
daniel@thunderbullproductions.com

Jefferson County Medical Society endorses McComas based on inaccurate information

“Physician, Heal Thyself” is a biblical quote, from Luke, who was a physician. The saying meant that during the rejection of Christ, that Christ would be told to fix his own faults before criticizing those of others. It could be applied last week to Dr. Steve Erickson, the head of the Jefferson Medical Society as he led a campaign to get the society to back Bruce McComas over Cheri Van Hoover for Hospital District Commissioner.

Minutes of the meeting were leaked to me and they tell an interesting story. First, the society apparently has never endorsed a political candidate in recent memory. Not even the threat of Donald Trump, a foe of Obamacare, (which has been responsible for helping the hospital stay in the black) was seen as enough of a threat to take a stand.

Now, apparently the threat of a skilled midwife, RN and ARNP,  carrying two degrees and one certification has . A woman with a background as a counselor in a community-based mental health crisis intervention and the  chair of national committees for the American College of Nurse-Midwives, chair of Ethics Task Force for Northern California Kaiser Nurse-Midwives Peer Group and Educator & Health Policy professor and nationally recognized for instructing medical, nursing, and midwifery students seems to have spooked the doctors of our town just before Halloween.  If these aren’t qualification enough to get medical professionals to endorse her, just what is? They can’t criticize her credentials so they go after her motives. They say that we ‘need’ a business person in the role, yet where were they when they elected commissioner after commissioner over 40 years with virtually no specific business acumen?  With that background the argument could just as easily be made that the hospital has done wonderfully without a businessperson on the commissioners.

The minutes stated that,”

Steve Erickson express the majority view of the meeting, which is that the two newest commissioners have been pushing for financially risky endeavors such as a subsidized dental clinic and a takeover of the county mental health services.  As far as anyone can tell, candidate Van Hoover is sympathetic to those views and candidate McComas is more concerned with maintaining the financial health of the county hospital system.

That statement puzzled me. I could not understand why Dr. Erickson was attacking the investigation that Mr. Glenn is leading into the dental clinic and mental health clinic.

The ‘risky financial endeavors’ that Dr. Erickson mentioned were originally raised as part of a multi-year community effort to prioritize county health needs. Called the “Community Health Improvement Plan” nearly 100 members of the community participated, including Mike Glenn, many hospital staff, (not Dr. Erickson apparently), Public Health, and others. The entire CHIP document can be found at :

CHIP Document

with a summary chart here:

CHIP Summary

I have attended or listened to all the Commissioner meetings since last fall, have interviewed both Mr. McComas and Ms. Van Hoover, attended 3 different candidate forums,  and never had come to the same conclusion as Dr. Erickson. I contacted Commissioner Kees Kolff and asked him about this allegation. Here’s what he told me (emphasis added):

Dental Health has been a concern of board members even before I was elected, in particular Tony Deleo. During the first year of my term I worked to get an outside agency, namely SeaMar, to come to the county since they had been so successful elsewhere. At that time Mike Glenn had already stated to the board that he would start in the fall of 2016 to explore options for JHC to provide dental services. With unanimous support from the board, he (Mr. Glenn) has spearheaded getting:

  1. the State to authorize the same reimbursement for Rural Clinics as for FQHCs (like Sea Mar) making it potentially sustainable, b. our legislators included $1 million into the hopefully soon to be approved state capital budget, for a 6 dental chair facility, and c. there is interest on the part of the Wash Dental Foundation to perhaps provide an additional $500,000.
  2. Behavioral Health service integration with medical services will be mandated shortly in our state, and is considered “best practice”. That has been the goal for several years, supported unanimously by the board. We jointly hired a Psychiatrist to spend half her time with JHC and half with Discovery Behavioral Health. Then it became evident that more integration would be best for both entities, especially the clients. Some in the community hoped that it would be a purchase of DBH and others that it would be a merger, when in fact we learned along the way that the only way to continue to get the kind of reimbursement that would make it pencil out, was to do a unique affiliation. Mike Glenn and his team, including Dr. Mattern and others on the medical staff and leadership team, spearheaded the effort, with unanimous board support.

Meanwhile, just a reminder that when the inpatient psych unit did not pencil out financially in spite of a grant for over $1 million, the board unanimously turned down the grant.

Finally, the CHIP effort also included the County and the City. A director for the program will hopefully materialize, since both the County and JHC committed money to hire one.

Although the CHIP has many ideas and priorities, they will be implemented by the different entities in the community only if they are affordable.

Hope that helps.

Cheers, Kees Kolff, MD, MPH

 

Dr. Katie Ottaway, also in attendance at the meeting brought this issue up, as the minutes state:

“Ottaway objected that community access committees have argued in favor of the dental and mental health services and that the hospital district should take those concerns seriously.”

Dr. Erickson and the others were unconvinced.  UPDATE: The minutes stated:

Prior to the meeting, the officers had met, discussed the issue of the board of commissioners dysfunction and effect of that on the financial stability of the hospital, and determined that candidate Bruce McComas was best qualified to serve on the board.

Which means that a small group of people (the officers) made the decision that this information that Dr. Erickson provided was accurate, then presented it to the members as fact. In fact, the Commissioners have never stated that they were dysfunctional. Commissioner Tony DeLeo stated this, and it is not agreed by the entire Board. It was his opinion. In fact,  the Commissioners routinely vote unanimously on many issues. Commissioner DeLeo has been manipulating this election since day one. Once he declined to run, Ms. Van Hoover stepped in. Apparently Commissioner DeLeo didn’t like that and argued publicly in the Port Townsend Leader that others should come forward to run against her. That’s when Mr. McComas stepped in. Mr. Deleo and two of the other commissioners routinely chastise Commissioners Kolff and Ready for their work to expand the Board into more than simply a narrowly defined oversight on Mr. Glenn, into a board that would take on greater work to help gain greater healthcare access to all citizens, not just the wealthiest. If anyone could be called dysfunctional, it would be outgoing Commissioner DeLeo. His disdain for anyone challenging his point of view is on display at almost every meeting. It is certainly the hope of this publication that whoever prevails in the election, that they bring a more open and mature way of approaching board disputes.

However, the vote, while claiming to be representing the “majority” of the physicians in the organization, which, according to Dr. Erickson has 25 members, had only five were present at the meeting. Dr. Erickson claimed that at the meeting they decided that they would endorse if 75% of the members who chose to express an opinion. Those who didn’t attend the meeting or responded via email were not counted as part of the threshold, so in essence, the decision was made by a minority. Dr. Erickson told me that not a single member endorsed Ms. Van Hoover, but Dr. Ottaway told me she was the lone dissenter present at the meeting. Dr. Erickson did say that the total number of votes present or not, made up a majority of the total membership.

This election for a minor county position, usually draws little to no attention. It has taken an ugly turn as some supporters of Mr. McComas have taken to a smear campaign of Ms. Van Hoover, fueled by stories like this one that Dr. Erickson used to convince the medical association of the supposed danger to the hospital by supporting Ms. Van Hoover.  I’ve also heard the stories myself directly from Bruce’s supporters that Dr. Kolff recruited Ms. Van Hoover. That is wrong. Commissioner Kate Dean was responsible for urging Ms. Van Hoover to run . Additionally, Facebook posts have lent more fuel to the misinformation campaign being waged by those same people. At this stage, I have no idea who will win. Mr. McComas has a huge amount of signs but a long time political campaign manager in town told me that “signs don’t matter, knocking on doors does.” Ms. Van Hoover has worn out her shoes doing just that.

At a recent hospital district commissioner meeting, a special consultant was hired (at a not to exceed non competitive bid of $20,000) to help mend the fences between the feuding factions. On one side are Matt Ready and Kees Kolff. They represent a belief that the Commissioners role should be more expansive than simply managing the CEO and rubber stamping all that he does. They would like to see the Board of Commissioners act more as a champion for getting health care to *all* the people in the county. There are issues at the hospital worth addressing from a policy point of view. While the hospital is doing well it has it’s share of issues, just as all bureaucratic organizations do. The faction of Marie Dressler, Jill Buhler and Tony Deleo are on the side of saying that the job is narrowly defined. They don’t want to ‘color outside the lines’ and accuse Mr. Kolff and Mr. Ready as interfering in the day to day operations. I can’t agree with that assessment, and it seems like more stories to tell Bruce’s supporters.

I listened to the opening hour of the meeting, and you could cut the tension coming from Mr. DeLeo and Ms. Buhler with a knife. You can listen to the whole recording here. The first hour is probably all you need to review.

Given the level that even the distinguished members of the Medical Society has sunk to, by not holding off making a decision until they clearly understood the facts behind the allegations, (which was requested of them),does not bode well for this election or next year’s election. Regardless of who wins the sour taste of accusations made against qualified candidates will linger. The Democrats have been warring between themselves as the Bernie faction challenges the traditional party people who brought us to a near domination of the political landscape with their hard work. The  Republicans seem willing to say and do anything to try and regain their positions in the county.

It also shows the depths that the medical society will go to in order to protect the status quo. There are plenty of positive things going on at Jefferson Healthcare. Mike Glenn and his staff have done an outstanding job of building reserves and expanding services. However, issues such as physician recruitment and retention, costs of services, and a lack of transparent pricing are just a few issues that continue to drive possible patients, such as myself, to take my healthcare elsewhere. That, in the end, will do more to harm Jefferson Healthcare than a well qualified woman who has spent a career in healthcare and health policy, which is the primary focus of the Hospital Commissioners.

If you are on the fence, or a supporter of Bruce because of these allegations, I urge you to at least research the facts before voting.

NYTimes: Shouldn’t Doctors Control Hospital Care?

This is a cautionary tale, especially with the current Jefferson County hospital district commissioner election and the drumbeat to elect a businessman over a medical professional. The good news is that there have been a lot of unanimous votes to support the hospital administration here in Jefferson County by the board of commissioners, even as they argue amongst themselves.

The article points out that business forces are continuing to take over our medical systems. it is the most common complaint that I hear from medical professionals. Some of the issues raised in this story are at play here in Jefferson County, mainly the issues of measuring doctors performances, and the licensing of doctors to practice at the hospital. Oddly, many of the doctors here want more business people to run the hospital and it’s Commissioners, it’s like they can’t even seem to see the forest for the trees. Those same doctors have complained that they dislike the fact they no longer control their practices. They also have no idea of what the hospitals are charging for all the tests that they are continuingly wanting to have people do before they issue a diagnosis, nor the fact that patients have little to no idea of what any of it costs.

Shouldnt Doctors Control Hospital Care?