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Want our money? Give us the facts
Whidbey General Hospital has publicized a Moss-Adams auditor telling Whidbey Island residents that they have a low tax burden and therefore have capacity for extra debt (tax). Now it seems the mantra echoing from the hospital’s administrative chambers is, “You taxpayers have too many pennies left in your pockets and we want them!”
This may have been a tactical mistake. As the public education for the need of a new hospital inpatient facility starts, CEO Tom Tomasino has been making his case for the $50 million bond. Unfortunately he starts off with a factual error. Mr. Tomasino presents the current hospital levy of $19.69 per $100,000 as expiring in 2011. In fact only part of that levy, a bond portion, expires in December 2011, but the hospital general levy remains. That information is needed by property owners to correctly assess the impact of an additional $50 million bond. Was this error due to sloppiness in the presentation’s preparation or misrepresentation of the data? I don’t know which but neither will earn the passage of a $50 million bond.
The hospital has a handout titled, “The Answers to Commonly Asked Questions” which asks and answers softball questions. The public has to present administration with the hard questions to which we want answers.
We have been told that Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging are the hospital’s growing income departments while in-patient care is decreasing. Why aren’t the profitable departments getting the space they need instead of investing money into a declining service? What are the plans for these departments beyond a vague concept of improving the physical facilities of profitable services?
The 2010 to 2015 Strategic Plan calls for five hospital facilities on the island. Three of those would be physician offices and two would be clinics. Mr. Tomasino has stated that new construction will be required for most of them. Where is this money coming from? Will there be a “Surprise!” and plans to take more tax dollars from us after the $50 million bond passes?
The now discussed Urgent Care Clinic was not included in the Strategic Plan. Why is this a need now but not back last autumn when the Strategic Plan was formulated?
What will the hospital’s financial standing be after paying more than $1 million for the Stark Law violations settlement and related legal representation? This amount will exceed the hospital’s 2009 profit.
What will the effects of the Federal Health Care Bill be on hospital finances?
If the only issue was the need for the inpatient facility I might support the project at the ballot. If hospital administration and the commissioners are unable to present public education in an accurate manner, including a comprehensive discussion of the scope of the entire hospital district’s needs, I have concerns about their ability to lead us to a successful conclusion of this building project.
My message to them is don’t give us propaganda from your hired-gun auditor and don’t present us incorrect figures. Most residents realize the importance of and the need for the hospital and if presented the facts may just support the bond. But we need all the facts, the good, the bad and the ugly.