The election for Jefferson County Hospital District has finished. After a long bitter battle, mainly between the supporters of both candidates, Bruce McComas was the victor by less than 100 votes. For Ms Van Hoover, the unfortunate point she learned, after knocking on thousands of doors in the county, was that the people who voted for other ballot items but did not vote for either candidate, proved to be the factor. So many people appeared to come out for Prop 1, the tax issue for helping low income people, and those people seemed to only vote for their issue.
Here was the overview of the race.
Two candidates are running.Both are long time county residents. Let me be clear: Both candidates are excellent people, with long term commitment to this county. That being said, it is well known that there has been factionalism on the Hospital District Commission since the election some years ago of Matt Ready. Three commissioners currently are squarely in a camp of what I call “support CEO Mike Glenn and don’t make waves”. Traditionally the hospital district commissioners have simply seen their role as hiring and firing the CEO along with overseeing the financial issues of the hospital district. Two commissioners, Matt and Kees Kolff, are taking a more activist approach, wanting to stretch the definition to include more advocating for single payer health care, greater citizen access to healthcare, concerns with the cost of healthcare at JHC and the amount of patients sent to collection. While all the commissioners say they support these efforts, the consensus has been to routinely vote down proposals put forward by Kees and Matt. Cheri Van Hoover seems to stand more in this activist camp, wanting to take a more patient-centric advocacy role, while Bruce McComas seems to be coming from, and supporting, a more traditional, CEO supportive role. Bruce is being run with the endorsements of the traditional wing, and his supporters include ex CEO Vic Dirksen and much of the physicians in the hospital, a close knit club that rarely wants to see change to their business.
The elephant in the room in this election is the Republican supported healthcare bill. With the R’s targeting vast cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid, which this hospital relies on to make break even, we are facing a grim future if this bill is implemented. That will mean very hard decisions, and much activism at the state and federal level to try and save what has been gained during Obamacare, which saw federal reimbursals allow the hospital to have a small retained earnings for the first time in decades.
I am very concerned that a “minimalistic” point of view to the job is not going to be useful over the next seven years. I am also concerned about the very high charges at JHC as compared to neighboring locations like Sequim and Poulsbo. There is a very large discrepancy that is not just accounted for by our rural hospital designation. Given that most patients don’t know enough to ask the price before committing to a procedure, it seems deceptive, frankly. None of us would feel that it’s good customer service to make it very difficult to understand a price you have to pay, only to find out that just down the road it costs 1/4 less. There are many brick and morter stores, such as Sears, that now are finding themselves being put out of business by lower priced online stores with better customer service. We want to avoid having built a $24 Million dollar addition only to find that the community is driving down the road for cheaper procedures. I myself have priced procedures in Poulsbo and Sequim at as much as a 1/4th cost of an exact same code here at JHC. All I tell friends is, “if you are paying out of pocket, you better price shop this hospital”.
We want the hospital to succeed. Many of these same commissioners who are in the the traditional wing agreed to a very expensive executive search to find Mike Glenn, and pay him the highest salary on the Peninsula to run this hospital (it is about $50k more than Governor Inslee makes!). They then approved his plan to build a new wing to the hospital, which it was argued might or might not have been needed. So we are where we are due to previous decisions. I for one welcome the idea of some of the commissioners eyeing progress with a critical eye. And for being much more active in helping the State and Federal governments understand the problems facing rural small hospitals such as ours. Obamacare, for all it’s faults, has made it possible for this hospital to not only survive but thrive. Throwing it out and choosing to cut Medicare and Medicaid while increasing the defense budget by tens of billions of dollars makes no sense. We need to have commissioners that will make the case to protect our elderly and poor as well as our troops and defense contractors.
There has been an ugly whisper campaign led by people who should know better. They have claimed that Cheri was put forward by Kees Kolff, in order to gain a majority on the Commission and ultimately fire Mike Glenn. This is total nonsense. County Commissioner Kate Dean was the person who urged Cheri to run. Kees Kolff and Matt Ready have never voted against a single vote to support Mike Glenn. Ever. In fact, virtually all votes about hospital issues have been unanimous. If anything, it’s the majority who consistently vote against most of the issues that Matt and Kees bring up. The lies that a few of Bruce’s key supporters have continued to spew behind the scenes leads me to wonder why Bruce hasn’t put a stop to this. Is he encouraging this behavior?
With that being said, here’s the candidates.
Cheri Van Hoover – https://www.facebook.com/CheriVanHooverforHealth/
Cheri has what appears to be the strongest medical and educational background for the job. She has been a practicing medical professional as a midwife, RN & ARNP and a university professor in health policy. She was awarded the 2016 Philadelphia University Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award as well as the 2009 & 2015 ACNM Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award.
She lists the following on her web site:
Master of Science, Midwifery
Bachelor of Science, Nursing
LICENSES & CERTIFICATIONS
RN and ARNP in WA State, with prescriptive privileges
DEA controlled substances registration certificate
Delivery of full-scope midwifery care in a broad range of practice settings for over 30 years
Counselor in a community-based mental health crisis intervention residence
Educator & Health Policy professor and nationally recognized for instructing medical, nursing, and midwifery students
Professional leadership includes midwife practice administration, chair of national committees for the American College of Nurse-Midwives, chair of Ethics Task Force for Northern California Kaiser Nurse-Midwives Peer Group
Owner of several small businesses spanning 40 years. Current business The Great Blue Heron’s Nest B&B, Port Hadlock, WA
- Introduction to Partner Dance: teach free classes in social dance for the community
- Tri-Area Garden Club (past president) & Master Gardener Foundation of Jefferson County (past board member)
- Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
- Salmon habitat restoration
- Friends of the Jefferson County Library
- Olycap Community Thrift Store
- Jamestown/Sequim Drug-Free Community Coalition
Bruce McComas -http://brucemccomas.org/
Bruce has done a lot of work for community organizations but has no real professional background in the medical field. That does not mean he is not engaged in the issues of the hospital, as you can see from his volunteer efforts. He does bring a long list of previous work for the community, and a business background. His web site states:
- Currently volunteering on 3 Jefferson Healthcare committees: Oncology Support Team, Patient and Family Advisory Committee, Patient Financial Experience Task Force.
- Founding member and past president of The Jefferson Community Foundation.
- Founding member of Habitat For Humanity of East Jefferson County.
- Director and past Vice President of the Jefferson County Education Foundation
- Port Townsend resident for 36 years and Citizen of the Year in 2008
- 7 years on the Port Townsend School Board
- 36 years in supervisory and management positions with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and MBA from the University of Washington.