Gaps in local healthcare need to be addressed

By Becky Smith, Connie Harris, Jim Smith, Larry and Carol Hendel, Jim Ghiglione ,Dixie Budke

LCHC members

Over the past year, the Lopez Citizens for Healthcare has gathered information from Island residents and healthcare providers about health services on Lopez. It is very clear there are some gaps and problems with current services. Our findings and concerns have been presented to the LIHD and have been met with little acceptance of our data or conclusions.

The Lopez Island Health District is a public hospital district funded by taxpayer money. Their charge is to oversee healthcare for ALL island residents and ensure high-quality island-appropriate care. The gaps in care LCHC has identified are poor accessibility to in-person appointments, urgent care issues denied care at the Clinic & minimal care for our Hispanic population. Most pediatric (child) care by patient choice is not done on Lopez. All of these issues cause a loss of revenue for the Lopez Clinic.

Cathy Doherty, a nurse practitioner, has had an independent practice on Lopez for the past few years. According to her recent records, she saw 266 patients in the past 5 months. Over half were unable to get a clinic appointment in a timely manner, were not registered, or were uninsured and couldn’t afford the fees. The other half were people who did not want to return to the clinic. She saw 50-60 school-aged kids for sports physicals because they could not get appointments in a timely manner before school sports started. Who will see these people now that she has retired?

We have no issue with the care that UW Lopez Clinic staff offers. Our issue is the people who can’t get in the door. We believe it is the responsibility of LIHD to acknowledge that these gaps in service exist and look for solutions to eliminate them. LCHC has begun looking at alternate options but has been met with defensive, hostile attitudes by the commissioners and Clinic staff. LIHD is asking the voters to approve a substantial levy lid-lift for the next six years. They say more money is needed to keep the services we have now. The commissioners are not looking to address any of the other gaps we have identified. If they want this levy to pass they need to admit there are gaps and pledge to begin addressing those issues. Support for this levy lid-lift would then follow.