Clinic in Peril

Since 1988 Island Hospital, in Anacortes, has been operating the Lopez Clinic. This past December Island Hospital notified the Catherine Washburn Medical Association (CWMA). owners of the building and equipment, that they are withdrawing from operation of the Lopez Clinic and will terminate the agreement in this coming June. The CWMA board, and Doctor Bob Wilson, have been busy since then trying to find a way to keep the clinic open.

The board CWMA board set 1:30 p.m. January 23rd for a public meeting to bring the public up-to-date on the situation. The meeting fell considerably short of that goal. It was not well organized. Christa Campbell, the vice president of CWMA did most of the talking. She rambled over a number of topics making it difficult to understand. She and Charlie Janeway were the only two members of the nine person board of directors who were present. Janeway said very little. The most coherent speaker was Dr. Wilson who, I believe, pointed out the most serious problems.

My conclusions are:

●    The board asked seven different organizations to operate the clinic. All but one declined and that one is still doubtful. Probably one of the major factors in their refusal is the difficulty of adapting to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the unknown changes the new administration might impose.

●    The only remaining options are; the still doubtful organization; asking Island Hospital to give us more time to find a partner; or for us to become independent and operate our own clinic.

●    It would take several months and substantial expense to convert our record system to that of a new partner and if the partnership changed the record keeping would also change, at considerable expense.

●    Forming a rural hospital district is absolutely essential to the continuation of our treasured clinic. Any of the clinic board who are serious about keeping the clinic open and are ready to accept the responsibility should run for a position in that district.

●    It is also absolutely necessary that CWMA turn over all funds and property to the newly formed hospital district. The idea of having a hospital district as simply a source of funds for CWMA which would operate the clinic or find an operator is unworkable. I am sure that the taxpayers supporting the clinic would rather have all clinic funds in the hands of an organization run by five people who are elected by the community, whose actions and decisions are open to the public and who are audited each year by the state, instead of being in the hands of an organization that is chosen by a small group, whose actions and decision have always been secret, which have never been audited and which has some irregularities which it, so far, refuses to correct.

●    The CWMA should immediately select the independence option and immediately purchase the best record keeping and collection system available and begin conversion. The computer based system that Dr. Wilson described is expensive and it may be necessary to hire to technical help to get started but CWMA has more than two and a half million dollars at hand and should be able to afford this.

It was disappointing to see that seven members of the CWMA board had not bothered to be present to at least show their interest and sincerity.

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