by Katherine Bryant Ingman, Dixie Budke, Corey Casper, Cathy Doherty, Larry Eppenbach, Jim Ghiglione, Connie Harris, Carol Hendel, Larry Hendel, Becky Smith, James Smith, Ingrid Stuiver
Lopez Citizens for Health Care
We are a diverse group of Lopez Islanders studying the level of health care on Lopez, and discussing options to optimize the best healthcare possible for our Lopez tax dollars. We have researched other clinics looking at services they receive and related costs from their hospital partners and have compared those to our Clinic.
1. The UW Medicine Clinic is run by UW Medicine through a contract administrated by the Lopez Island Hospital District. UW hires the Clinic staff, determines their hours on duty and the level of care offered. UW is paid from funds generated by patients, their insurance carriers and a property tax levy. Payments from Medicare were cut substantially when the Clinic lost its status as a rural clinic and became an urban one when moving from Island Hospital to UW six years ago. It is open 8-5, M-F, with a doctor currently available only four days a week.
2. The Catherine Washburn Medical Association (CWMA) owns the clinic building, grounds, and equipment. It helps support additional services such as Physical Therapy, and the Pharmacy.
3. Our Fire Department is responsible for our EMT’s and Paramedics who provide urgent care when the Clinic is closed or not available. They can stabilize patients but only Doctors and highly-trained Physician’s Assistants and Nurse Practitioners can make medical decisions and perform procedures such as suturing wounds or analyze x-rays that can keep a patient from having to be flown off island unnecessarily, often at great expense.
4. There is an independent Nurse Practitioner on Lopez who realized that our community needed additional care immediately once UW took over. She opened an office and now assists people who are turned away or can’t be seen by the Clinic and is available during the day, after hours and on weekends.
Lopez faces some challenges:
• The independent Nurse Practitioner is planning to retire this year in September.
• UW Medicine will not been able to replace their full time Nurse Practitioner at the Clinic until December at the earliest and is substituting temporary part-time and virtual (computer based) assistance instead.
• There are reports of the Clinic turning away people in need of care.
• The LIHD is proposing a tax levy increase on the Nov. ballot to cover UW’s increased costs. This year the District received $924,737 from taxes. If the tax levy passes, it will receive at least $1,400,000 next year.
• The Clinic is increasingly relying on “Telehealth” (virtual care from Seattle) to accommodate our needs in lieu of seeing a Lopez provider. If Telehealth determines that additional care is needed, patients will be referred to off-island destinations or to EMS. Virtual care can be of some help, but not enough.
There are several options under review by this committee to address these challenges. If you have any comments or want to pass on any information to us please email LCHC@rockisland.com or mail LCHC, PO Box 309, Lopez Island, WA 98261.