Talking with Candidates for NVH (County Hospital Dist. 4) Commissioner

NORTH  COUNTY – There are four candidates for commissioner positions on the North Valley Hospital Board (Okanogan County Hospital District 4), two incumbents, Dick Larson and Lael Duncan, and they are challenged by Rosa Snider and Teresa Hughes in the Tuesday, Nov. 5 General Election. The Gazette-Tribune asked the candidates to give us a little information about themselves, why they’re running and what issues are important to them.

Commissioner Position 1 (six year term)

Dick Larson

 Tell us about yourself:

Dick Larson

Dick Larson

I was born and raised in Oroville, my dad bought the Oroville Pharmacy in 1940 and I bought it from him in 1976 and have been working here as a pharmacist ever since. I have a 26-year-old daughter and she works at Boeings.

Why do you want to be re-elected?

I have been on the hospital board for 28 years and I think the hospital has a lot of things going on that are going to take some time and experience. I know about healthcare and welcome continuing to take on the challenge of providing quality healthcare to this area.

 What are three issues facing your district?

1.) Continuing to pay down the warrants and to offer as many services as we can afford to provide. By paying down the warrants from $3 million to $278,000 that opens up a lot of opportunities for a hospital. When they were at $3 million no one would finance us for anything, but we need to look at updating our MRI and CAT-scan and to do so when we can afford to improve our equipment.

2.) The emergency room, hospital and extended care are important to our community and we need to continue to provide the best healthcare we can. Our hospital is special, we treat everyone, the old, the sick and the broke… but that’s not necessarily a good way to run a business. But we have to have a hospital.The hospital is important to any area and is a big part of the economy, both in jobs at the hospital and for people looking to move to an area. Having a good hospital is tied to having good land values. And as for extended care, my mom was in extended care for three and a half years so I know how it works.

3.) I’d like to see joint replacement and for that we need the right equipment and the right doctors. We will continue to provide the scopes and colostomies and the things we do well now

Rosa Snider

Tell us about yourself:

Rosa Snider

Rosa Snider

Being fifth generation, I was raised in Oroville, many people know me as ‘Rosa McCoy.’ My husband John was raised in Tonasket. Community involvement was instilled at an early age whether that meant helping at a service organization or on a more personal level when someone was experiencing a difficult time. Though I don’t ever remember thinking of this as ‘service.’ I’ve always seen it as the very nature of our community. It’s what we do and who we are. As an adult, I have 19 years of experience in advocacy for some of our most vulnerable populations including homeless families, children, elderly and the disabled through many organizations, i.e. Washington PAVE, Dadsmove, etc.

Professionally, I have over 17 years of experience in various areas of the medical field in both private and non-profit settings. My experience includes but is not limited to; clinic management, consulting, clinic and hospital multi-specialty billing, physician recruitment, contracting and credentialing, human resources, practice and program development, marketing, strategic planning, team building, fundraising, grant writing, mediation and facilitation.

Why do you want to be elected?

I want to use my deep understanding and appreciation for our community’s unique culture and diverse economic structure in addition to my vast experience to serve and bring our local healthcare and community back to the table, working together.

What are three issues facing the district?

1.) Rebuilding community trust through honest communication, true transparency, honest action and accountability is imperative. We could address the functional issues but without rebuilding community trust the majority of our community will continue to seek care elsewhere.

2.) Utilizing our community’s collective knowledge and resources is vital. There has been a very disturbing lack of communication between the board and the community. Our community history shows that when community members are actively engaged and fully informed they have made very sound decisions that have allowed our health services to grow in a responsible and positive way.

3.) Financial stability is also of the utmost importance. Many generations have been willing to tighten their belt and roll up their sleeves not only to maintain services but expand our district services to meet our community’s needs. I believe no less should be expected of those who are entrusted with overseeing the management and operations of our community’s healthcare services and assets.

Commissioner Position 2 (six year term)

Lael Duncan

Tell us about yourself

Lael Duncan

Lael Duncan

I am a native of Washington with two grown daughters and a grown son son. I attended the UW and have lived in Okanogan County for 27 years. For the last 11years I’ve served as the Executive Director of Okanogan County Community Action Council. In connection with this work I have been active in efforts to reduce homelessness and poverty. After serving on the board of the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless, I was elected President of the Board for a two year term. I also served eight years on the Board of the state association of Community Action agencies – The Washington Community Action Partnership – serving two years as President of the Board.”

I have served 6 years as an appointee of the governor to the State Advisory Council on Homelessness. Issues of poverty and homelessness directly affect the financial status of the hospital. I also served 6 years as President of the Board of the Economic Alliance and was a founding Board member and subsequently served two years as the Executive Director of the North Central Washington Business Loan Fund. I have attained the certification from the National Development Council of Economic Development Finance Professional which allows me depth in reviewing financial statements and business plans for the hosptial’s future. Prior to my non profit work, I spent 20 years in for profit industry including casualty , commercial real estate, and banking. I have also served on the board of The Support Center and assisted with various community projects. Currently I am a member of Rotary. Serving my community is my privilege and I believe in the motto that we should all leave things better than we found them.

Why do I want to be re-elected?

My parents taught me that I had a civic duty to give back to the community I lived in if you look at my record, you will see I have done that and I want to continue to  improve medical services for the people of our district through my role as a Commissioner.  This requires a substantial  finance and business background.

The business of the hospital – financial, political, and management issues – are unique and extremely complicated. It takes several years to really become thoroughly knowledgable about the administrative oversight responsibilities of board members. We have accomplished many good things in the last six years including the hospital addition (I served on the steering committee that brought this project in on time and on budget, VA Clinic and new re-purposed surgery suite.

The change of the Assisted Living Facility was painful and stressful, but after working for years at alternative solutions, we had to make this difficult decision which was forced on us by inadequate reimbursements for the services we provided. This situation needs to be addressed with our legislators and I have many years experience in advocating at the federal level for issues such as this.

I want to be a voice for our rural community and the special needs that we have as a result of our low population and remote location. I have a good working relationship with our legislators and intentionally do not become involved in party politics as I want to focus on issues rather than party lines. I believe the hospital can become stabilized and take advantage of opportunities to grow our revenue streams if we take the time to develop analyze and evaluate a major business plan.

With warrants paid down significantly, many of the steps taken that were questioned by the public have now proven themselves to be positive in the long run. I hope to engage the community in a planning process that can reflect our needs and be widely supported by the residents of the district.

What are three issues facing the district?

1.) Financial Stabiltiy – getting warrants paid off and keeping them paid off – this requires close attention to reports and requests for special allocations – It also means that the community is engaged in the realities of running the hospital. We will need to develop a substantial depreciation account to cover improvements as they are needed rather than having to borrow. This is going to require increased community communication and I urge everyone to attend board meetings as the best way to learn the business of the hospital.

2.) Affordable Care Act – We are all in this together and the hospital along with the public will be challenged to make this new system work for the community – this can be accomplished if we all work together. There have already been glitches and that is predictable. We will have to work together to achieve the goals of the act. I also want more opportunities to educate the public about the services of the hospital, and opportunities for personal health and wellness education – this will all be part of a comprehensive Medical Home as the act calls for.

3.) Care for the most vulnerable. We need to support our Veterans Clinic and Extended Care facilities. The difficulty in supporting Assisted Living with medicaid residents is heartbreaking, and, as someone who could well need such a facility in the next decade or so, it is a real concern to me that we figure out how to provide for senior citizens here in the community. I don’t have answers to this question but look forward to working on this with other committed residents and finding a solution that fits our needs while making good fiscal sense.

Teresa Hughes

Tell us about yourself:

Teresa Hughes

Teresa Hughes

Family: I am a single parent raising my daughter, Sierra who is attending SCC and my son, Jordan who is a sophomore at Tonasket High School.

Experience/Background: I have lived in Tonasket for 40 years and consider it home. I have over 23 years of Federal Government Service that I can utilize as a guide in performing the fiscal duties of a Hospital Commissioner. To this point in life, I have focused on raising my family, and now I feel it is time to get involved in my community and believe that being a Hospital Commissioner is a great place to start.

Why do I want to be elected?

I would like to bring fiscal responsibility to the forefront of the Board of Commissioners. After the closing of the Assisted Living Facility, I realized that it was time for me to start participating in how our community resources are managed. I intend to be the voice for the community on the Hospital Board of Commissioners.

What are three issues facing the district?

1.) The Affordable Care Act is the biggest issue facing all of health care at this time. Knowledge and understanding of the law and applying it appropriately, as it pertains to the North Valley Hospital district will be key for success.

2.) Finding effective ways to increase revenue and reduce the warrants with the county is always an important issue. I have some ideas on this, but I will welcome the comments and ideas from the community on how to handle this issue. We need to listen to the people who we represent and strive to maintain a quality health care facility for.

3.) Paying for the multi-million dollar geothermal heating and cooling system that the current Board of Commissioners is proposing to install. I am unsure where the funds will come from to pay for this system upgrade considering that in the past year the Hospital district closed the Assisted Living Facility and sold the Oroville Clinic in an effort to stay solvent. This is another issue where utilizing community input could generate a viable solution.

Commissioner Position 1 (six year term)

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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