Which hospitals are possible new partners for Lopez Clinic? Could our clinic become completely independent? What is a hospital levy? Why is one being considered now? How much will a levy cost me if it passes?
One hundred and fifty people attended a 2-hour Lopez Clinic information meeting at Lopez Center on Sunday, January 22 to get answers to these questions and more. It was the community’s first opportunity to meet, discuss and ask questions since Island Hospital notified the Clinic/CWMA last September that they would discontinue their affiliation with Lopez Clinic effective June 30, 2017. Since hearing from Island Hospital, Dr. Wilson, plus Marty Clark, Christa Campbell and Charlie Janeway, all members of the CWMA board, and Lopez resident Peggy Means have been on a committee exploring options.
“We knew we didn’t have all the answers yet, but we wanted to put everything we knew out there,” said Dr. Wilson. “These are complicated issues, and the more we understand them as a community, the better. We were really pleased with the great turnout.” The meeting was recorded and is available on the Clinic/CWMA website in the three topic sections: www.lopezislandmedical.org and on this blog.
Peggy Means, whose 35 years of experience in healthcare management includes negotiating contract agreements, spoke first about the current healthcare developments. Dr. Wilson addressed the search for a new clinic partner and Christa Campbell, CWMA board vice president, introduced the proposed public hospital district.
Healthcare Environment Affects Lopez Search
While Lopez Clinic would look very attractive to potential partners under normal circumstances, uncertainty on both national and state levels are making large healthcare organizations cautious about making changes right now. “Unanswered questions about possible changes in Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act are causing hospitals, clinics and insurance providers to hunker down, cut costs, hoard cash and figure out who their key constituents are,” stated Peggy. “This was a factor in causing some potential partners to say no to us right now.”
Update on Partner Search for Lopez Clinic
Dr. Wilson reported that of the seven organizations originally contacted about partnering with Lopez Clinic, one remains a solid candidate. Because of confidentiality agreements, he was not able to release the name. If a letter of interest is signed, the name will immediately be announced.
While that partnership is being pursued, the committee is also looking into becoming an independent clinic. “We are looking closely at every option right now, and going independent is one,” said Dr. Wilson. “Basically we’re going down two parallel paths: partnership and independence.” The speakers made it clear that while the search for a new clinic operation model has been more complicated than expected, “the idea of closing the clinic is something we aren’t even considering. There are very good options out there.”
Public Hospital District
Christa Campbell spoke about a Public Hospital District, stating that it became important to put it on the ballot to reassure potential partners that Lopez would supply some level of on-going funding to support the clinic. Whether we partner or go independent, public funding will be necessary. What is currently unclear is the amount of funds that will be needed.
The amount of the levy will not be on the ballot. “We understand that not specifying an amount on the measure is causing concern, but without more specifics about our final course, setting a levy amount now would have been guesswork. We knew that would not serve our community,” she said.
According to wording on the measure, the maximum amount that can be levied is .75 per thousand dollars of assessed property value. If the hospital district passes, the new commission will begin work immediately. One of their first tasks will be to present a budget to the county in October. That’s when the actual levy amount will be set.
“We plan to host a second community meeting as soon as more specifics are available,” said Christa. “Please stay tuned, we’re getting information out just as soon as we have it.”