Four Reasons Why I’m Voting NO for the Lake Chelan Community Hospital Levy
(Opinion – Editorial) By Ann Congdon, “Retain Our Hospital”
I am voting No for the Lake Chelan Community Hospital Levy because I believe that we can meet our community’s health care needs for the future in a responsible, affordable way. More specifically, here are four reasons I’m voting NO:
First, the new hospital proposal is NOT AFFORDABLE. Our hospital is already carrying over $7 million of existing debt (Washington State Audit Report) Over the past 5 years, Lake Chelan Community Hospital’s (LCCH) expenses have risen faster than revenues. The community is already supporting our hospital and EMS with an annual tax of over $1.4 million. The proposed hospital will require an additional $22.5 million of non-voted debt, in addition to the $20 million proposed hospital bond. All non-voted plus voted debt at current interest rates will total approximately $154 million over 35 years!
Second, there are better alternatives to explore. Our current hospital is structurally sound and can be renovated. Structurally sound hospitals are not abandoned; they are improved. Examples include Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Omak, Pasco and several hospitals in Seattle area. The total cost of expanding our current hospital will be substantially less than building a new facility. Our hospital consultant’s report indicates that our slightly enlarged, remodeled hospital can adequately meet our health care needs for the next 30 years. (LCCH website, “Facilities Master Plan”)
Third, there is no proven need for a new hospital building. National trends show a decline in inpatient use of rural and critical access hospitals (CAH’s) Our hospital has experienced a 54% decline in daily acute care census (occupied beds per day), declining from 4.8 to 2.8 over the past 5 years. (Washington State Dept of Health)
Finally, rural and critical access hospitals are in trouble. In Washington state alone, 13 of 39 rural critical access hospitals are facing financial difficulties. In each of these cases, medical programs are being cut and widespread layoffs are occurring to the detriment of the health care in their communities. Our hospital requires large federal subsidies to meet cash flow projections. There is great uncertainty about future federal reimbursements due to the administration’s proposal to reduce federal subsidies. (Medicare, Medicaid)
I’m voting NO because I believe that we can meet our community’s health care needs together with sensible, well-vetted plans that are lean, flexible and transparent to all. Please join me in voting NO on Chelan Hospital Bond!