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Four reasons why I’m voting YES for the Lake Chelan Community Hospital Levy (Op-Ed)

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Guy Evans, representing Citizens for a New Hospital Now, listens to a presentation by opponents to hospital levy issue. (Photo by Jillian Foster)

Four reasons why I’m voting YES for the Lake Chelan Community Hospital Levy

(Opinion – Editorial) By Guy Evans, Citizens for a New Hospital Now

I am voting yes for the Lake Chelan Community Hospital Levy because I want to maintain quality health care here in the Lake Chelan valley. Here’s four specific reasons why:

First, to continue to meet the needs of our growing valley, our hospital needs more space. A quick tour of the current facility confirms this reality. Bathrooms are used for storage rooms. Storage rooms are used for offices. Offices have been torn out to make room for patient care. The place is stuffed.

Opponents argue we don’t need more space. They argue we shouldn’t grow but instead reduce our services. “Stabilize and Ship”, they call it. This would mean the end of delivering babies in the Lake Chelan valley. And it would leave the community with a significant tax burden. Visit Leavenworth to see this model in action. It doesn’t make sense here. We are Lake Chelan.

Second, building a new facility is the most economical route. The new hospital will cost $44 million. That’s on par with other new hospitals of similar caliber around the state. What will it cost you and me? An extra $10 per month if our homes are valued at $300,000. And that rate will go down over time as more homes are built in the valley.

Opponents argue that $44 million is too much for our community to pay. But staying put has its price as well. The “Stabilize and Ship” model would run well in excess of $14 million. So staying put still costs big bucks, reduces our services, and requires significant taxes. This may make sense elsewhere, but it doesn’t add up here. We are Lake Chelan.

Citizens for a New Hospital Now march in the Wayne Kelly Top Dog Parade held in March 2017. (Photo by Jillian Foster)

Third, a stable and sound plan exists to pay for the hospital over time. Increased reimbursements combined with taxpayer support will pay for over 90% of the yearly debt payment. The balance, less than 1% of total hospital revenues, will be less than current debt service payments.

Even in the face of this sound plan, opponents are worried. They fear the money won’t be there. They compare us to other places where hospitals are struggling: Grand Coulee, Quincy, Kennewick. But these communities don’t have what we have.

We have a stable hospital with sound finances. We have a low percentage of uninsured. We have stable reimbursements. And we are a growing community with a swelling retiree population. We are Lake Chelan.

Finally, the time has arrived to build a new hospital. We built our first hospital in 1948, and the second in 1972. It’s our turn now to reinvest in our future.

Is there uncertainty and risk? Yes, without a doubt. Life is uncertain. The opposition casts dire predictions of our health care future. But our risk actually goes up if we stay put. We would still be required to invest in our current hospital, we still would pay significant taxes, and we get fewer services. That just doesn’t make sense.

I’m voting yes because we are a growing community. I’m voting yes because we have a stable and sound hospital that needs a new facility to continue to grow. I’m voting yes because we are Lake Chelan. Please join me in casting your Yes vote on April 25th.

Guy Evans can be reached at guy@guyevanschelan.com.

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13 Comments on Four reasons why I’m voting YES for the Lake Chelan Community Hospital Levy (Op-Ed)

  1. Certainly the real estate folks want the community to build a shiny new hospital, they envision turning Chelan into another Lake Tahoe, with the accompanying high taxes, crime, and real estate prices. Their vision of Lake Chelan requires a shiny new hospital that they can put on their brochures, but it goes against what most of the people who presently live in the valley wanted when they moved here. No matter how many times these folks are told just how dangerous this massive new debt is, they are determined to ignore the facts, and the facts are that a small population cannot afford this grandiose new building out at the dump. Keep what we have, which includes delivering babies, emergency services, and short term hospitalization, there is no need to give this up. Stabilize and ship will be the rule regardless of this shiny new hospital, they will have the same number of beds and the same number of staff, there is absolutely no reason to nearly double the size of the hospital. We can easily stay within the budget, and the 1.5 Million dollar taxpayer subsidy we now pay, and upgrade and properly maintain our present building looking out over Lake Chelan. VOTE NO, Save what we have don’t let them bulldoze our present hospital

  2. Bill and his well heeled friends don’t care about the economics of this valley or the viability of the hospital – they just aren’t willing to pay a penny toward it. They do seem to be willing to spend plenty of money and jeopardize their integrity to spread false information and put up signs that are actual lies. None of Bill’s so-called local “experts” have anything remotely resembling expertise in hospital architecture, design, construction or financing. They certainly have demonstrated that they don’t have a clue about the management and needs of a hospital. Since the facts aren’t on their side they are pounding the table to undermine the commissioners, administration and staff by making false statements and attempting to develop conspiracy theories to scare monger citizens into voting against this long needed project. They take information out of context and attempt to torture it into supporting their incorrect conclusions. Chelan deserves better than this assault on the viability of our healthcare infrastructure by this small cabal of well-heeled naysayers that certainly don’t have the best interests of the community at heart. They are willing to engage in deceptive practices to achieve holding healthcare in the valley hostage to their special interest. I don’t know about the rest of you but I am thoroughly disgusted by their unethical behavior at this point.

    Let’s put the Community behind our Community hospital once and for all. Vote YES!!!
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7mR7doARL_M&feature=player_embedded

  3. Statement from LCCH Plant engineering.

    Ken Peters, Manager/Plant engineer, Robert Anderson, Tim Eggars, Scott Dietrich and Kim Gamelkoff

    I, Scott Dietrich, with the support of my Plant engineering co-workers, will work on setting the record straight as to the misconceptions that have been used against LCCH, the commissioners, the administration and the staff of this community entity, the Lake Chelan Community Hospital.

    The naysayers have come out vehemently against LCCH and wrongfully accuse the commissioners, that the members of this community elected to represent us, the administration and what we feel is a direct assault on past and present maintenance department personnel as to faulty maintenance over the course of the history in our hospital. We also feel they have made a mockery of our community’s intelligence by misconstruing and fabricating information that “Maintenance” has been poorly performed over the years at LCCH. They have purposely misrepresented a past report/survey to confuse this community as to the difference between “Maintenance” and “Capital improvements”.

    We as a Medical facility are governed by three (3) agencies, The Department of Health, The State Fire Marshall and The Department of Labor and Industries. There is no wiggle room with any of these (3) agencies. If we at any time had failed at maintenance, as we have been accused, LCCH would have been shut down by any one of these three agencies. The State Fire Marshall was just at LCCH last week and complimented us on the great job we were performing in an aging facility.
    The naysayers have used a 2005 survey from Botesch, Nash and Hall, (BNH) Architects P.S. to try to accomplish this. This report, that had absolutely nothing to do with maintenance, was, used at the public forum at Chelan High School as one of their examples against the upcoming bond election. The report was used, outside of the context of what the report was originally written for.

    LCCH was built in 1972 based on 1969 building codes. This BNH report that has been used against us by the naysayers was commissioned by the then Board of Commissioners and the CEO. It was only intended and utilized to get an estimate of what “Capital improvements” would need to be undertaken to bring LCCH up to the then current 2005 building codes. It was used to determine the most economically cost effective means of either re-modeling to then current building codes, or building new. Let me point out that this report was done by a true architectural firm in conjunction with an engineering firm that does reports like this as their professional business. It wasn’t an interpretation done by those who’s motivation is deceitful misrepresentation to this community as to what this report was commissioned to accomplish. It had nothing to do with maintenance or lack thereof.

    In laymen’s terms, I’ll try to put it in a parallel comparison. The Navy has a vessel that is 45 years old. This vessel has been well maintained. They do an inspection for a total refitting and determine the costs of upgrading propulsion, weapon’s systems, crew facilities, and numerous other improvement’s to be far greater than building a new upgraded vessel that will last for another 45 years or longer. What happens to the old vessel? It gets mothballed, sold as surplus, or scrapped. A new one takes its place.

    We have a facility that is 45 years old. It has been maintained. We can spend $56 million to refit our current facility and still not accomplish what is needed for the future of this growing community and our patients or we can spend over $13 million less and have a state of the art facility that can address this communities health care needs far into the future.

  4. It does seem a bit strange that the leader of this “build a new hospital cabal” is a real estate person. Then we have the parade leader and Hospital Commissioner, “also a real estate person”. I think the voters of Lake Chelan will see that “Land Speculators” are leading this charge, with the idea of making a better brochure to attract the big money from the West side to our quiet town, which of course will heavily burden the infrastructure, increase taxes, raise rents and housing costs, all for the benefit of a few salespeople. VOTE NO, the present hospital has a lot of life left. Maintain it, and treasure the location looking out over the city and lake, we don’t need a Mini Mall type hospital out at the dump

  5. That old hospital’s days are number either way. Vote yes to proceed with a solid plan rather than invest millions in an ancient facility not designed for modern health care.

  6. I wonder how Bill and others who are so opposed to the new hospital would feel if they or their loved one had an emergency that couldn’t be stabilized quickly or adequately due to the limitations of the current hospital. The comments posted above regarding Guy’s real estate background reveal the true nature of the opposition to this hospital. Is this really about the $10/mo. to build a new hospital? No. It’s thinly veiled resentment that Chelan is growing and changing. Like it or not, the secret is out. As more and more people migrate to western Washington from states like California and Texas, they’re going to discover Lake Chelan not only as a vacation destination, but a beautiful place to call home. This isn’t going to be halted by opposing efforts to provide the facilities and services needed to accommodate that growth. The new hospital will benefit the entire community, and one day, maybe even Bill.

  7. The present hospital will not be replaced for at least two years, if they are able to negotiate a further loan from the federal government, which is a big if. So in the meantime we in the valley will have the same hospital that we have had for 35 years and we have to assume that it will be adequate. That being said, what is going to change when they nearly double the size of the hospital with a shiny new hospital at the dump with the same number of beds and staff. The only thing that will really change is the cost and the danger of going broke, which has happened to three close hospitals in the last year. Kennewick, Grand Coulee, and Quincy. It will be much wiser to upgrade and properly maintain the present hospital. The hospital will do what it was intended for, emergency care, delivering babies, and short term hospitalization, for all elective procedures, stabilize and ship to a better funded and equipped hospital in a larger population center, just exactly as is being done today. Don’t let the hospital employees and real estate land speculators risk our local hospital with this risky massive new debt, VOTE NO, we need to keep a viable hospital in the valley

  8. The letter that Dr Tagge wrote to the Wenatchee World pertaining to the Hospital Bond disturbed me. So I did some research and found this letter that he had written in support of the bond in 2014 and he also wrote one in 2012. .The only thing I can see different is that he does not work at the hospital any more. thought some might be interested in what he said back then.these can be found on the Lake Chelan Mirror website under letters to the editor.

    Letters to the Editor
    Published by admin on Wed, 06/25/2014 – 5:31am

    Support Hospital Replacement

    The Lake Chelan Community Hospital Board recently decided to ask the community for a replacement hospital on the November ballot and I am writing to ask for everyone’s support. Our local hospital is a community treasure that I have been employed by for more than 12 years. It either employs or has treated a significant number of our friends and families and I don’t think one can overestimate its benefit to all of us.

    Healthcare delivery has gone through, and will go through, immense change, and our dated facility needs help. The issues are not secret to those that have walked the halls or inhabited its bed space, rapidly advancing technology, need for private rooms, need for more beds to avoid diverting patients, recruiting new employees/providers, and costs of major repairs/renovations. Larger operating rooms is one issue that is near and dear to my heart. There are more reasons but I will stop there at the risk of losing the reader. Its remarkable to me how well the facility and the district employees have worked around these issues.

    I believe supporting the replacement hospital will benefit the community for decades to come.

    Gordon Tagge, MD

    LETTER TO THE EDITOR — Supports hospital levy
    Published by admin on Thu, 06/28/2012 – 4:10am

    Dear Editor:

    I am writing to tell your readers why I believe our community needs a new hospital. In the interest of full disclosure I am a ten year employee of the Lake Chelan Community Hospital. Our hospital is a great community resource and I am proud to be associated with local professionals caring for our friends and neighbors. Many have asked me and others why we need a new hospital to complete our mission of local healthcare delivered close to home.

    As a taxpayer, I want to see our tax dollars put to the best use. As I work at the hospital I see and hear of a myriad of costly remodels, upgrades, and maintenance issues inherent to a 40 year old building housing a rapidly changing industry. I can’t help but wonder, however, if at some point we are throwing good money after bad and, like a used car, there comes a time when you realize your dollars are best spent on a new one. Mind you, it doesn’t have to be a Cadillac, but it should be new, As I look at the hospital project, the land is already owned, many other funding sources are being sought out and used, and the request to the taxpayer is approximately $8.34 a month on a 200,000 dollar house.

    Secondly, we are outgrowing our facility. With advancing technologies, new and expanding departments like physical and occupational therapy, information systems, radiology, and the need for larger operating rooms and private patient rooms, we simply need more space. This hopefully will help reduce the significant increase in diversions, or sending patients to other hospitals because we don’t have rooms, and allow us to handle the significant increase in patient days we have seen recently and are likely to see in the future as the demand for healthcare services increases.

    The 12 acres already owned by our hospital district are large enough to allow for possible expansion in the future and an on-site helipad thus minimizing transport times for critically ill patients.

    We are in a competitive marketplace when we are recruiting for specialized employees, nurses, and physicians. When people, medical or not, look to move to a new place they want to see and know about the schools and hospitals. Just in our immediate area, Grand Coulee and Leavenworth have built new hospitals.

    People are receiving great care currently from the dedicated staff at LCCH. To sustain first class local healthcare and to remain competitive in an ever-changing industry we need a new hospital.

    I really don’t think one can overestimate the benefits that accrue to a community when they have a hospital that is state of the art, thriving, and well supported by the voters.

    Gordon Tagge, M.D.

    Chelan

  9. Times certainly change, and 5 years and 3 failed bond issues makes a big difference. We have a new president. Congress, The Senate, and the Supreme court are all in the hands of republicans who have vowed to cut government waste. This is a huge threat to hospitals planning on expansion, the tax and spend democrats are in the wilderness and finding unused federal money is going to become more difficult. If this was not enough the Democrat Governor of the State of Washington specifically warned rural hospitals of their vulnerability to bankruptcy if they expand. Here comes LCCH, wanting to build a completely new hospital, (when they already have a functional one) that is nearly twice the size of the present hospital, and they will still have the same number of beds and staff. Doesn’t seem like it would be hard to deny LCCH a loan, but the trouble is in the details. “READ YOUR BALLOT” If this thing passes the Hospital Board has a “Blank Check” with $20,000,000 that they can use any way they deem appropriate. Just from the past when they bought the land out at the dump, or bought out the local clinic, once the taxpayers hand them $20,000,000, they can spend it as they wish. Meanwhile the taxpayers have a monkey on their backs to pay off that will last for 30 years. With LCCH now using the entire $1.5 million dollar subsidy to pay for 6 management employees with benefits, and having their CEO at $201,600 with benefits. (think about this that is $8064 per bed) Confluence has 198 beds, does their CEO make $1,596,672 per year, I think not. I for one have absolutely no faith in their ability to properly manage a blank check for $20,000,000. VOTE NO, Lets keep what we have and not let them bulldoze our hospital

  10. Statement from Ty Witt
    I have seen the profits and working revenue used very wisely and cautiously by the
    administration and commissioners. The building and equipment is constantly being repaired, maintained and upgraded. I can show you several examples if you would like to come up for a tour. To repeat, the building has been upgraded on an ongoing basis all along. If it hadn’t, we wouldn’t pass every industry inspection that comes through. We do pass, every time! The facility is just below current building codes and will require extensive infrastructure upgrades if a remodel of any size or scope is initiated.

    You may or may not know that margins in healthcare are tight. This hospital is blessed to be a “Critical Access Hospital” (CAH). Simply put, having a loan and interest as an expense actually helps the revenues increase because of higher reimbursement rates. It will be easier to make a bigger profit each year in the new building even if the volumes stay the same or even drop some. The expert financial analysis has shown the decision makers (commissioners) that “not doing anything” is a very risky choice when it comes to financial viability. The move to a new building increases the viability and sustainability; not jeopardize it.

    I also felt that a remodel project should be part of the options plan. It was seriously
    considered and analyzed. The building experts tell us that the remodel is 27% more
    expensive than the new build (that’s $12 million extra). That analysis impressed me. It
    addresses your future concern question. You are correct that things will continue to change. In 20-30 years, changes, upgrades and possibly expansion may be necessary again. That’s the beauty of the new site and design. The current project will only use 8 of the available 12 acres. We will have plenty of space to grow and expand if and when it is needed right on campus. Expansion is very difficult and expensive on the current site.

    As far as savings, you need to know that the commissioners and administration have saved $8 million dollars. But this money should not be spent. It needs to stay in the “rainy day fund”. LCCHC is a $28 million per year organization. There has to be reserves and savings to support the day to day operations. As a father, and husband you probably do the same thing with your family funds. Do you have a car payment or a mortgage? It’s the same thing here. Except, the hospital actually makes more money under the CAH model. So having the loan and paying the interest brings in more money and makes it easier to be profitable than the current financials can do. It would be the same with a remodel but the loan would be $12 million more and not allow the future expandability options. Really think about that.

    The hospital and clinic merged in order to save the viability of the clinic. Even with increasing volumes, the doctors in the clinic are not reimbursed at the same rate unless they are owned by a CAH. Now that the merger occurred, the clinic will be able to be profitable. Had the clinic failed, and the primary doctors departed, healthcare in the valley would have been destroyed. This decision by the commissioners saved healthcare in the valley. The acquisition pricing met the industry standard. Thousands of patients are seen in the clinic every year. The value of this clinic is really undeniable.

    There are thousands of men, women and children who need and use local medical care. We have a professionally analyzed and vetted plan that will sustain and ensure Healthcare in this valley for the next generations. Please help us reach this reality and vote YES for the $20 million bond.

  11. Well the ballots are out, and the tired arguments for a shiny new hospital are once again, (for the third time) being repeated. Nothing has changed, LCCH still has not answered the most basic questions on how they intend to be different from the other CAH hospitals and actually pay for this expansion. And don’t be fooled by rhetoric, this is an almost doubling of the size of the present hospital, during a period where 12 out of 39 CAH hospitals are in desperate financial straits. In a period of time when three of the local hospitals that expanded are laying off people and threatening to shut their doors, Grand Coulee, Quincy, and Kennewick. In a time when just two weeks ago the Governor of the State of Washington, specifically warned rural hospitals to not go into debt. In a time when the federal government is trying to get control of its 19 Trillion Dollar debt. All the hype, expensive marketing campaign, and social media, cannot change the fact: We Cannot Afford to Go Into Massive Debt, when we have a viable hospital that is working just fine. So dust off those ballots, and once again vote NO, maybe this time LCCH management will get the word and actually listen to the will of the voters. Take care of what we have, it has plenty of life left in it and is exactly the size needed for the community. Remember, a non vote is a vote for the proponents, cause they are the ones who will benefit from this Shiny New Toyota Town Hospital and they will vote. This is not a time to not vote, it will cost everyone the community for the next 30 years. VOTE NO, do it for your children and grandchildren who will have to pay this bill

  12. One week to go, time to get those ballots out and VOTE NO. All it should take from logical taxpaying residents of Chelan is a quick read of the ballot. The LCCH Commissioners are asking for a “Blank Check” for $20,000,000 to be paid back by the taxpayers for the next 30 years. Read the Ballot, if they are unable to get their share in a federal loan they can spend that money anyway they deem correct. This is the same group that has had no other idea than to repeatedly, (three times) pump the same bond issue out to the voters every two years. This is the same group that uses the entire $1.5 million dollar taxpayers subsidy to pay SIX wildly overpaid managers. This is the same group that pays their CEO $201,600 per year “with benefits”, in a town where the average salary is $27,900. Are we the taxpayers to give this poorly managed group a Blank Check, that our children and grandchildren will have to pay off, for a hospital nearly twice as large as the present one, with the same number of beds and staff as they have presently. I think Not, VOTE NO, Time to put a stamp on that ballot and control the high cost of living in Chelan

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