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Some confusion by residents for and against new hospital as ‘Vote No’ group gathers for presentation on alternatives

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Mike Sherer presented a three-part proposal which included his opinions on the proposed Lake Chelan Community Hospital bond, alternatives and his new vision for the community’s healthcare. (Photo by Jillian Foster)

The ‘Vote No on the Hospital Bond’ group held a meeting at Campbell’s Resort on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Some members of the ‘Citizens for a New Hospital Now’ group, including Lake Chelan Community Hospital Chief Medical Officer Ty Witt and Guy Evans, were invited to attend to hear a presentation by Mike Sherer. Sherer’s presentation was about alternative options in place of building a new hospital. Evans was told he could invite 5 – 10 individuals from the ‘Citizens for a New Hospital Now’ group to the meeting.

Sherer’s presentation was offered as opinion and not a group statement by the ‘Vote No on the Hospital Bond’ group. The presentation included research conducted by Sherer, thoughts on what is wrong with the new hospital proposal, and his new vision for the community’s healthcare.

“I invited Guy [Evans] because I felt that having everything above board was important,” Sherer said.

The presentation’s purpose was “to thoroughly evaluate the new Lake Chelan Community Hospital (LCCH) proposal, identify ground truth regarding facts and provide a conclusion regarding future healthcare for the Chelan/Manson communities.”

Sherer explained that, according to his research, the current hospital is $7 million dollars in debt and that the proposed bond would increase that number to $29.5 million.

“The people of Chelan/Manson are being asked to embrace a 35-year, $22.5 million USDA mortgage, based on projected new revenues,” Sherer wrote.

Guy Evans was invited to attend the presentation along with representatives from the ‘Citizens for a New Hospital Now’ group. Following the presentation, no questions were permitted, and Evans and “Citizens for a New Hospital Now’ group and the media were asked to leave. (Photo by Jillian Foster)

The presentation concluded with Sherer’s plan, should the hospital bond be voted down. Sherer recommended six steps to develop a larger hospital footprint at Lake Chelan Community Hospital’s current location:

  1. Purchase or condemn property on the west side of the hospital access road all the way to Gibson avenue and as far as Bradley street. Move/recycle as many of the houses as possible.
  2. Construct high retaining walls around the foot of the cleared/acquired property, backfill with cut material from around the back of the hospital, engineered compaction of lifts of fill material, and level out the fill area approximately even with the base of the current administrative lot.
  3. Construct a helo landing pad and parking on the new fill area. Construct a new Chemical Treatment Facility near the back of the present hospital and connect it in such a way to remain supported by Medicare.
  4. Move the entire hospital Chemical Treatment Facility on the 3rd floor to the new addition to the hospital building.
  5. Expand current hospital operations, administration, therapy, inpatient care, etc. as necessary using the new space available on the 3rd
  6. Systematically rebuild and renovate the remainder of the hospital and the infrastructure.

“I think it would be best now, we have given you an opportunity to hear the presentation, I think it would be best if Guy [Evans] took his guests and departed,” Sherer said, when asked if he would like to take questions.

A member of the ‘Vote No’ group and Chelan County PUD Commissioner Ann Congdon said, “I thought this was a public meeting, so therefore I invited Casey [Masey] from the Wenatchee World and Jillian [Foster] from GoLakeChelan.com.”

“Is this the feeling of the group?” Congdon asked, as anyone not affiliated with the ‘Vote No’ group was asked to leave after Scherer’s presentation concluded. “I think transparency is really important for everybody. I’ll do whatever the group wants, but I’d rather see everyone stay,” Congdon said.

“I am a resident from Manson and wanted to hear both sides, but I am assuming I am not invited to stay,” community member Kathy Ross stated.  

“If you think you could be convinced one way or the other, then you should stay,” said a member of the ‘Vote No’ group. No questions were permitted in regards to Scherer’s presentation.

After leaving the meeting, members of the ‘Citizens for a New Hospital Now’ group that included community members and a few hospital employees, gathered to discuss the issues brought forward in the presentation. 

In response to Sherer’s statement that the current hospital is $7 million dollars in debt, Wendy Griffiths a Lake Chelan Community Hospital Foundation Board member stated, “We don’t even get our money from the feds until April. That’s deceptive. We are in fine financial shape.”

“For a critical access hospital to spend this many years in the black, we are one of the best in the state,” Dr. Witt added.

Witt expressed that the public is welcome to attend both the informative meetings arranged by the ‘Citizens for a New Hospital Now’ group and the Lake Chelan Community Hospital Board of Commissioner meetings.

“As a new resident, what I would like to see is the two groups together in an exchange,” Kathy Ross commented while leaving. Ross was permitted to stay in the meeting. 

Witt described some discussions that are taking place about having a public forum that would include the two opposing groups, but all of the details have yet to be confirmed. GoLakeChelan.com will continue to follow this story and provide updates.

(By Jillian Foster)

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6 Comments on Some confusion by residents for and against new hospital as ‘Vote No’ group gathers for presentation on alternatives

  1. Prior to the meeting of the voters against the new hospital bond. Mike Sherer gave a presentation to all regarding his ideas for an alternative to the present new hospital building. “He” invited proponents and paid staff of the hospital to hear his presentation, when he was finished with his presentation, the meeting of those opposed to this new bond began, and anyone who had an open mind on the subject was invited to stay to continue the scheduled meeting.
    Dr. Witt, (an employee of LCCH) was quick to point out the press that the present hospital is in the “black”, and that is exactly the way that the opponents of this new 45 million dollar debt want to keep it. Of course he failed to mention the 1.75 million dollar subsidy that the taxpayers already pay yearly into LCCH to keep it solvent and well maintained, nor the 8 million dollar debt that LCCH has for land that they purchased after the first bond ballot failed. Thus many of us on the opposition call this project the Toyota Town Hospital, for it’s similarity to the 40 million dollar bailout required for that bond, and ours will be 45 million, and we will not have the entire county to bail us out, just Chelan Valley and Stehekin.
    Look around, most of the small rural hospitals are in financial trouble and we stand out as being solvent. Do we want to go down the road of these other troubled institutions or stay lean and effective by living within our means and not incurring this incredible debt. Maintain it, Don’t replace it, regardless of the hype of the shiny new hospital fans it is much more economical to take care of the present building and not try to expand into a new building 1.75 times the size with the same number of staff and beds. Get the facts, consider them with an open mind, there is no way Chelan can afford to make the wrong decision. Vote NO for the fourth time and keep our hospital solvent

  2. Bill- we are all glad to read that you now think that LCCH is “solvent”. From the way I read your previous posts, they made it sound as if LCCH was in financial ruin and worse off than hospitals of similar size! The problem with doing nothing is that it will cost the hospital $14 million just to be updated to state code. That was an option all the commissioners thought was a waste of money. As stated many times, that will do nothing about small double occupancy rooms, will not add to ER size, or help privacy and infection control for patients.
    You are sort of correct that a new hospital will not be able to expand INPATIENT beds. LCCH is a critical access hospital, that is all the number of INPATIENT beds they are allowed by law. What you failed to mention is that with a new facility, those same number of beds will be larger, PRIVATE rooms. There will also be space for larger operating rooms, surgery recovery, labor and delivery, observation rooms and additional ER space. So, yes, it will be 1.75 times the size, and patients will be accommodated much better. With that ability, the hospital will be able to keep more patients instead of squeezing them in small double rooms, or on days when full, need to transfer needlessly.
    The Toyota Town Center and LCCH are not similar. I will refer you to the newhospitalnow.com website to get details on that.
    Cascade Medical Center also has a levy and Leavenworth passed a bond for a new hospital and clinic. So Chelan County Hospital district 1 supports them on a yearly basis. And, if you look at most small towns with hospitals, they all have hospital districts that they pay property taxes to. So that is not unusual.
    What really troubles me about your secret meeting is that people were not allowed to ask questions. One question would be how much Mr. Sherer’s plan would cost or how it is different than the replacement plan that was studied and would cost $12 million MORE than building new. We would also like to be able to ask, at a forum, for your side to explain their numbers and then defend how they came about.
    Don’t be swayed by scare tactic rhetoric! Inform yourselves with legitimate facts and come to your conclusions! I am confident that will be a YES vote!

  3. Those of us opposed to building a new hospital and adding to the present debt know that LCCH is holding it’s own and want to keep it that way. 35% of the present hospital are only 22 years old, when the third floor was completed in 1994 the entire hospital was in full compliance with all local and state building and hospital regulations. The cost estimates given for renovation have been based on sketches done over 10 years ago and numbers undocumented assumptions. Concrete and steel building last hundreds of years “when they are maintained”. It is one of the best constructed building in the valley and the only non-combustible building in Chelan. The Present Hospital Commission has spent a fraction of the money normally spent on maintenance during the last 20 years, preferring instead to push for their new hospital building, buying land, and inflating management salaries. The voter/residents and taxpayers don’t need to put a 45 million dollar lien against their property when they can upgrade the present hospital piece at a time at a fraction of the cost, and risk. Don’t be swayed by the LCCH propaganda, get the facts, VOTE NO, Maintain It, Don’t build New

    • Bill – your assumptions are just not correct. LCCH will not hold it’s own while constrained in that building or in that location. It doesn’t matter if it was built last week, it’s not lack of maintenance, its the building itself. The fact that it is a concrete and steel structure is actually a detriment in this scenario – to fix the infrastructure is significantly more expensive than the type of proposed construction. You keep claiming that normal maintenance hasn’t been performed. That is just more of your usual nonsense. All the maintenance in the world will not magically provide single occupancy rooms, provide adequate space for the lab, radiology, pharmacy, OR, OB, ER, PT, create adequate parking and safe and easy access to the facility for patients, visitors, staff and vendors trying to make deliveries. There is nothing inflated about staff salaries – that is just a way to spark resentment, I get that, but it is just mean. The current plan has been reviewed by experts that work routinely with hospitals like ours on projects like this. They weren’t paid to say what LCCH wanted them to say they are paid to give an honest assessment of the project. The financials have been vetted by a reputable accounting firm, which has examined best, likely and worst case scenarios – the financials are sound. As a citizen, taxpayer, consumer of health care and employee of the hospital I have an absolute stake in the hospital being a success in the community. If I thought it was ill-conceived I would not support it. The staff at the hospital are the experts in healthcare. Healthcare as a business does not resemble any other in the valley. Hospital buildings are built to much more stringent standards than retail space, schools, hotels or homes. The financials do not resemble that of a business like an orchard or vineyard, a home budget, a hotel, a university – not equivalent. What expertise in healthcare do the opponents bring to the table? Yes, moving from the current location will sacrifice a magnificent view, but the view of Chelan Butte is very lovely from that nice flat, ready-to-build, piece of land and the Columbia Valley Clinic will shield the view of “the dump”. This isn’t about having something shiny and new – this is about having a hospital that is functional for patient care activities. Let’s not kick this problem down the road again, lets pay it forward like our predecessors did in 1948 and 1972 and VOTE YES for a facility in a logical location. Personally I’m not willing to accept the “we’re just a small town and shouldn’t expect more” scenario outlined by Bill and his secretive friends. We are a CAN-DO community who has done it before. The plan is sound! The time is now! We can’t afford to wait! VOTE YES

      • No secretive friends just community members who do not want to put the present hospital on the road to ruin as other local hospitals have done. Where do you get the idea that remodel is more expensive than building new. Certainly you have to add in the 8 Million already spent on land after the first bond issue was defeated. That is land that can be sold to help in the reconstruction. Local architects and builders know much more than we do and I believe their intimate knowledge of the structure, it’s long term viability, and that it is much better for the valley to remodel, and maintain what we have than go into incredible debt for this new hospital. Yes, the wages paid to the non-medical management are obscene, particularly in a hospital that has been losing market share in recent years. Hopefully we can get them to publish those wages, so that the working people in Chelan can see just where the subsidy money has been going. It certainly has not been going into maintenance, and they admit that they have deferred maintenance so that they can build a new hospital. You are correct that hospital buildings are built to a much higher standard, and the concrete and steel building we now have should last us through the next century, if it is properly upgraded. I have one question. What if, the federal government will not lend the hospital the money to finish the project? Certainly you know that they have been cutting out subsidies here in the valley for everything from water to the airport to the roundabout at Noseeim Road. Will we get the 20 million dollars back, or will it just be spent wherever the Hospital Board wants?

        Ask a few questions, your neighbors have turned this bond issue down three times previously, it is up to LCCH to prove their point, the burden on borrowing and putting a 45 million dollar lien against the property in the valley is on them not us. Then take note that the one board member with the most intimate knowledge and experience in hospitals voted NO to this new construction, if the board cannot even convince their own members why should the citizens listen to their propaganda. Thank you for stating that you are an employee of the hospital that certainly clarifies your desire for a shiny new workplace. I am a 20 year citizen of the valley and have no stake in the New Hospital Building. I want a viable hospital that serves the needs of the community without putting the entire community into unsupportable debt. We have seen this before with the Toyota Town Center, where the entire county had to bail out their 40 million dollar mistake, this is a 45 million dollar risk and they have only Chelan, Manson, and Stehekin to bail them out. VOTE NO, Maintain it, Don’t Build New

        • Bill – I get you just don’t want to pay for this project. Period. You make it clear that you don’t get your healthcare locally. That is a personal choice. You continue to obfuscate the actual facts of the situation. You are not correct when you state that maintenance has been deferred on the building. You confuse “maintenance” with remodel. The building IS maintained, what is deferred is “remodeling” the building. It is not logical to remodel a building, using money and debt capacity that would be better spent toward building an actual functional building. You may be enamoured with the “concreteness & steelness” of the present building but for all it’s inherent durability – IT IS NOT A FUNCTIONAL HOSPITAL BUILDING. That “concreteness & steelness” makes it very expensive to upgrade the infrastructure embedded in that “concreteness and steelness”. Remodeling the building would not get us the space needed for single patient rooms, the space needed in every department to function effectively, a heliport, safe year round access and adequate parking for patients, visitors, vendors and staff. Your local “builders & architects” have much less intimate knowledge of this building than those who work in it 24/7/365. Your local “builders & architects” don’t know more than those who are actual experts in healthcare – from providing patient care, managing the business of healthcare, building a functional hospital, financing a hospital project, assessments of what is needed in our setting. In short, you and your friends are not experts in anything to do with hospitals, yet you atttempt to speak with authority, casting aspersions against LCCH with targeted insinuations of ill-intent and malfeasance on the part of the board, administration and staff. As for the property purchase – public hospitals and schools are well within their authority to purchase lands as part of strategic planning. That is another red herring from your basket full of them like trying to equate this project to the Town Toyota Center. A false equivalence if there ever was one.

          I’d encourage you to come to the informational meetings being held to get your many questions answered. You seem to have quite a few of them. You could even visit the hospital.

          The board member you reference did concede that we do need a new building, but failed to propose any alternative funding model.

          You can’t really argue that majority of the community members don’t support this project. The last two elections have fallen just shy of the needed 60% supermajority. A majority does support the need for a new community hospital for the Chelan Valley. LCCH is making a compelling case to prove our point by being open, transparent, inviting the community to visit the present facility, see the plans for the new building and have any and all questions answered about the risks and benefits. You and I can at least agree that we want a viable hospital that serves the needs of the community. Where we differ fundamentally is in what we believe is the best route to do so. My choice is VOTE YES!!!!

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