Editorial: Greater Grays Harbor Inc. supports “Yes” vote for Public Hospital District #2

If Grays Harbor Community Hospital does not become a public hospital, our economic health will be in jeopardy. That is why the board of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. has voted to support the formation of Grays Harbor Public Hospital District #2.

Community Hospital has struggled the past few years to balance its budget, and the primary reason it has been unable to do so is because of its “payer mix.” Today, about 80 percent of its patients rely on Medicaid or Medicare to pay for their healthcare. Unfortunately the government does not pay enough to cover the costs the hospital incurs just caring for those patients. Eight out of ten times when a patient walks in the door, the hospital is losing money just by doing what they are mandated by law to do.

In the times of economic prosperity, most of the hospital’s patients are employed and have health insurance, and they subsidized everybody else – a fact of life still at most hospitals in the U.S. And the hospital has been cutting costs. But there is no fat left to trim. And the hospital cannot expect two patients to carry their own costs and a portion of those of eight others – it is deeply unfair and fundamentally unsustainable. The hospital needs to be paid a fairer price for what it provides to all of its patients.

GHCH, along with three other rural community hospitals in much the same position, asked this fiscal fairness of the state legislature this past session, and the legislature agreed to increase the reimbursements for Medicaid patients to match the higher reimbursement rates of Medicare patients. However, the law mandates that the hospital must be owned and operated by a public entity – a hospital district.

There are benefits to being public besides recouping a greater portion of Medicaid costs. The hospital will be able to run levies to support its operations. Elected hospital commissioners will set the rate, and county commissioners are in charge of approving anything up to $0.50; anything above that to a maximum of $0.75 goes to a public vote. The average public hospital levy is $0.50, which means $4.17 for someone who owns a $100,000 home, a very small price to pay for the service (Aberdeen residents pay $6.69 per month for storm drain maintenance, for example.) Elected officials and levy votes will make GHCH accountable to the people.

Another effect of the levy process is that those patients who are costing the hospital are chipping in to pay for the cost of the services through rent and property taxes, which makes it more equitable. And no one in Grays Harbor can say they don’t use the hospital – you never know when you, or someone you care about, will need their services. It’s not like a store or a bank.

It is also worth dwelling on what will happen if the public district does not come to pass. Unfortunately, that is a murkier view. It is very likely that many of the hospital’s more than 650, mainly family-wage jobs will be lost and services cut. This alone would be devastating to local businesses, and property values would surely plunge as former medical staff move to jobs elsewhere while others are dissuaded from living in an area which does not have a full suite of medical services.

And forget persuading new industry to set up shop here. Few industrial businesses, and no large scale operations, want to open in an area where the only hospital is a critical access facility that stabilizes and ships emergencies to Olympia. Our area’s dependence on Medicaid would continue and possibly grow, further limiting the hospital.

And think about the medical transport by ambulances – it will tie up our cities’ emergency services. They will be responsible for taking emergency cases from here to Olympia – valuable time where they may be needed for emergency calls here, and a valuable chunk of our communities’ budgets.

None of this addresses what it means if, say, the Family Birthing Center closes up shop – a definite possibility. Will you or your family member need to go all the way in Olympia for routine OB care, never mind the birth? The hospital will certainly provide a lot less primary care to patients, and possibly a great deal less surgery. We have doctors who can do all manner of surgeries, from replacing knees and hips to reconstructive surgery, to cancer surgery. The Harbor stands to lose those services if the hospital district isn’t formed.

A levy is truly a small price to pay for stability, economic development, public safety and accountability. And it’s cheaper than the cost of appointments in Olympia, on the cost to the cities of transporting emergency cases to Olympia.

That is why we support the formation of the Gray Harbor Public Hospital District No. 2, and we urge you to vote Yes.


The Board of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc.

Police searching for suspect of attempted burglary considered armed and dangerous

The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Department is searching for a man considered armed and dangerous after an interrupted burglary in Montesano yesterday.
Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate tells us at about 2:10 pm Thursday, a resident in the 100 block of Monte Brady Road just outside of Montesano interrupted an attempted burglary to his residence. The victim was in the back part of his residence when he heard a noise coming from the front. The resident investigated the noise and discovered an unknown man in the front part of his residence. The resident was carrying a firearm at the time and attempting to prevent the suspect from leaving while he called 911. The suspect attacked the resident and the resident discharged his firearm prior to the suspect taking the gun. The suspect then fled the residence in a blue colored pickup with matching canopy.

The resident believed the pickup was a Mazda and the canopy had no side windows. He also noted two females inside the pickup, one of which was pregnant. It was unknown which direction the vehicle left toward.

Shumate said yesterday it is unknown if the suspect was injured from the gunshot. The victim received only minor injuries and did not require aid. The suspect, described as being in his mid 20’s wearing a ballcap, should be considered armed and dangerous. At this time investigators are on scene attempting to develop additional information. We are asking that anyone with information regarding this case to call the Gray Harbor Dispatch Center at 360-533-8765 or the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Department investigations unit at 360-964-1731.

Grays Harbor Community Hospital will ask to become a public hospital district

Grays Harbor Community Hospital will ask voters for approval to become a public hospital district.
The Board of Directors voted to move forward with exploring the idea at their regular meeting yesterday, adding in their press release that “Legislators are convinced the development of a second Public Hospital District in Grays Harbor is the best option for Gray Harbor Community Hospital.
A Steering Committee has been formed to assist in the facilitation of this involved process.

The press release went on to say that “Today is the first step in a multi-step process; we will have additional information available as we move forward in this exploration. Ultimately, this will be up to a vote of the community; GHCH will work to inform voters of the options and the implications of forming or not forming a Public Hospital District.
During this process Grays Harbor Community Hospital will continue to support its mission to heal, comfort and serve our community with compassion.

Hoquiam Police Seek Assistance in Grays Harbor Transit Burglary

To remove the vaults from the area the suspect(s) apparently stole a white 1994 Chevrolet C2 Truck. The truck has the Washington state exempt license of 55849C. The truck has 4” block letters in red of the identification number “M14” on the front corner panels.

The suspect(s) apparently left the property by cutting off the padlock that secured the gate in the 3100 block of Bay Avenue.

At the time of this release the stolen vehicle and the stolen vaults have not been located. The value of the coins that were removed with the boxes is not known.

No suspects have been developed at this time. Anyone who has any information regarding the burglary, the stolen vaults or the stolen vehicle is asked to telephone Hoquiam detectives at 532-0892 Ext. 102.

Large photo of the style of lockbox stolen recently from sseveral grays Harbor Transit buses.



UPDATE: 6/24/2010

The Hoquiam Police Department reports that on Sunday May 23, 2010 a Hoquiam officer received a telephone call from a concerned citizen regarding the burglary at Gray Harbor Transit. She told the officer that she owned some property on Greenwood Road (which is located off East Hoquiam Road in Grays Harbor County) and that he husband had been on the property on Saturday May 22nd when he discovered that someone had knocked down the cable gate that leads to the property. He had also discovered some metal cans, some nuts and bolts and an identification card in the name of a Grays Harbor

Transit employee. The person reporting this information to the officer had heard about the transit burglary.

The Hoquiam officer relayed the information to a Grays Harbor County deputy who responded to the location. While on the scene he located 9 of the 12 coin boxes that had been removed from the buses at the transit facility during the burglary. All the boxes had been forced open and the money removed. The boxes were turned over to the Hoquiam police for processing for evidence.

The surrounding area of where the boxes were discovered was searched but nothing else was found. The truck stolen during the burglary has not been located.