What do you know about public hospital districts?
Voters opening their information booklets and ballots this off-year election will be presented with voting for candidates at the basement level of democracy: commissioners for fire, parks and recreation, cemetery, water, sewer and public hospital districts.
Most are small taxing districts operating with modest budgets to provide essential services in rural areas. However, some public hospital districts are responsible for millions in budgets, and their elected directors oversee the policies and quality of medical care in hospital and clinics in their districts.
Public hospital districts, authorized by state law since 1945 to meet rural health needs, are owned and governed by local citizens to deliver health services.Some services are contracted to private entities. Over the years, the delivery of medical care and the business of medical care have become more and more complex — as has the role of public hospital districts.
There are three public health districts in Skagit County. Skagit Regional Health District 1 serves areas south of the Skagit River, Island and north Snohomish counties with hospitals and urgent, clinic and emergency care; United General District 304 (PeaceHealth) serves residents north of the Skagit River; and Island Health Skagit Hospital District 2 in Anacortes serves Fidalgo, Cypress, Guemes and Sinclair islands.
In San Juan County, there are three public hospital districts: San Juan County Public Health District 1 (PeaceHealth), Orcas Island Health Care District 3 and Lopez Island Hospital District 2 (UW Medicine).
The only public health district formed and operating in Whatcom County is the Point Roberts Health District served by SuperTrack Urgent Care.
For the voters in these public health districts who also may be patients and clients for medical services, this election cycle has 12 director positions to be filled, of which only one position is contested. The importance of the issue of governance, especially regarding our health care, deserves more public attention and involvement.
To that end, there are two public forums sponsored by local chapters of the League of Women Voters that Salish Current encourages its voter-readers to participate in:
- Monday, July 17, 10-11:30 a.m.
The LWV of Bellingham-Whatcom County will hold an online Zoom public forum, “Public Hospital Districts 101: Making Democracy Work for Local Healthcare.”
- Monday, July 17, 6:30-8 p.m.
The LWV of Skagit County will host a forum for the candidates for the position of Commissioner, Position 2, Hospital District 304, the county’s largest geographic health district. You may be in District 1 or 2, but understanding the issues about health care and information about the function of health districts is vital. In-person at the PUD Building, 1415 Freeway Drive, Mount Vernon; the forum will also be available for viewing by Zoom and for viewing later.