Staff photo/Hayley Day At the Jan. 10 San Juan County Council meeting, Christa Campbell, vice chair of the Catherine Washburn Medical Association, presented reasons to put the creation of the Lopez public hospital district to a vote.

Lopez Island hospital district on April 25 ballot

By Hayley Day

Journal reporter

The county will hold a special election on April 25, which only includes issues regarding the creation of a Lopez Island hospital district. Lopez residents will vote for or against the creation of a public hospital district, as well as the five commissioners, who will serve six-year, staggered terms.

“It would be great to vote in support of the district so the clinic can continue operations,” said Christa Campbell, vice chair of the Catherine Washburn Medical Association.

Three commission candidates are running for uncontested positions, three are running for position No. 3 and two are running for position No. 4. The positions are not based on any physical jurisdiction; some candidates chose to run against certain opponents.

In mid-September, Island Hospital officials reported that their service contract to run the Lopez Island Medical Clinic will end on June 30.

Campbell said if the association partners with the University of Washington to run the medical clinic, Island Hospital will extend the contract to Sept. 30. If UW doesn’t partner with the clinic, and the clinic has to run independently, the “likelihood of the clinic closing for a short time is high,” said Campbell. This is due to the lack of time to transition partners, including transferring records and updating insurance company credentials.

The hospital district revenue from property taxes will fund the operations of the clinic under either circumstance. If UW is selected, elected commissioners will finalize a contract with them. Commissioners will also determine the taxable amount, which cannot exceed over $.75 per $1,000 of assessed Lopez property. Tax revenue will be collected starting in April 2018.

Island Hospital has operated the clinic since the 1990s, while the Catherine Washburn Medical Association has owned the building since the 1970s.

Transitioning from Island Hospital to the new partner is estimated to cost up to $600,000, said Campbell. The annual anticipated shortfall of the clinic is $450,000 to $600,000, she added.

“Without the district, there would be no funds to operate the clinic,” said Campbell, who is running for commissioner position No. 1, uncontested.