Editorial: Whidbey General Hospital board shows backbone

Whidbey General Hospital’s board of commissioners faced down a private firm wishing to purchase the hospital. In an informal but compelling straw poll before more than 100 concerned citizens, the commissioner unanimously agreed they have no interest in sell to Capella Healthcare, which made a presentation at Monday’s meeting.

The commissioners showed their hearts are in the right place, but that doesn’t mean our public hospital is immune to some future takeover attempt. If next Tuesday’s public vote on the $50 expansion bond is extremely negative, the commissioners may have begin to rethink their position. That’s a possibility brought up by CEO Tom Tomasino. Hopefully the bond will pass or at least be close and worthy of another try, but a miserable failure would leave a big question mark over the hospital’s future.

Without the 39 new private rooms designed for patient privacy and the needs of modern medical equipment and worker safety, Whidbey may be unable to effectively compete with neighboring hospitals in Anacortes, Mount Vernon and Everett. Health care has become a ruthlessly competitive business. Seattle’s Swedish Hospital, for example, just opened an emergency room in Providence Everett’s territory, siphoning off some of the lucrative ER business. Anacortes gets about 22 percent of its business from Whidbey Island residents. It’s compete or die, just like any other business.

If the Whidbey General Hospital board does ever face the necessity to sell due to the overwhelming competition, we suggest an advisory vote of the people first. After all, it’s the people’s Hospital District and they should have a direct say in its future, bright or bleak as it may be. But it won’t come to that if voters do the right thing and vote say yes in the $50 million bond election. Make sure your ballot is postmarked no later than May 17. Every vote will count in this one.



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