During the past few weeks, there’s been a great deal of information and discussion about the Lopez Island Hospital District levy lid lift (LIHD Proposition #1). There have been posts on Lopez Rocks and various Facebook groups, articles and letters in local newspapers, flyers and postcards, and public meetings. Some of the information shared has been confusing; some has been inaccurate; some has been helpful. The levy issue is complicated, and the LIHD has used all the avenues listed above, as well as numerous conversations with individuals and groups, to accurately explain the need for the levy to assure that healthcare is sustained on Lopez. We know that questions remain, and we feel that some recent information has added to the confusion. We hope the following comments provide some clarity.
Could Lopez Clinic avail itself of the increased Medicare payments through the Rural Health Clinic program? The short answer is no, as the federal provision allowing increased payments was eliminated in 2020. LIHD will continue to monitor federal health legislation going forward and will pursue changes if it becomes financially advantageous.
Does the UW cover health care provider absences? During a recent provider illness, the UW Associate Medical Director came to Lopez to cover days at the Clinic. This November, Dr Dougan has a vacation planned, and UW has arranged for two MDs in addition to ARNP Frianeza-Garin to be on site providing patient care. UW has been responsive to the needs of our community, and absences have been covered at no additional cost to the Lopez Clinic.
Lopez Clinic staffing levels have been compared to Orcas Clinic in several reports. Lopez Clinic has been understaffed due to providers resigning, which could not have been predicted. Even prior to the most recent provider loss, UW had added a position to the Lopez Clinic in order to provide additional patient care and provide administrative relief. The position was advertised and filled, and means that as of December this year, we will have 3 full-time Lopez providers (more than ever before). Although we have only had one provider along with support staff for several months, a recent one week review of 47 patients seeking same day care resulted in every one of those patients being accommodated to the patient’s satisfaction.
After hours coverage has been voiced as a concern. This is fully understandable, and recent changes offer more options. There continues to be the 24/7 triage line available to patients, and UW Medicine has opened their Virtual Primary Care Clinic (VPC) that is available from 8AM to 8PM daily (363 days per year) in addition. With the VPC, patients have access to telehealth appointments with UW providers that can often be scheduled with very short wait times.
Finally, the question has been raised about how LIHD will use the additional revenue generated by the levy lid lift. Additional funding will ensure healthcare on Lopez can remain at current levels (including primary care, physical therapy, and pharmacy), allow LIHD to consider support for additional healthcare services that will benefit our community, and prevent the District from falling into a negative cash position. If District revenues are ever expected to exceed expenses, we do have the option to lower the levy rate for that year thus reducing the taxpayer’s burden.
We ask that you vote your conscience that best supports the overall Lopez community.