Not welcome at meetings, shame on you

Dear Editor,

For the past three months, I have been one of many attending the Board of Commissioners meetings for Okanogan County Public Hospital District #4, also known as North Valley Hospital, in Tonasket. The first two meetings the boardroom was able to accommodate all of those in attendance, everyone was able to sit in a chair and hear the board members at these public meetings. As interest and concern about the closure of the Assisted Living facility grew so did attendance at these meetings. Now there is no longer enough seating or space for the majority of the citizens/voters attending these public meetings. We have now been sitting/standing in an outer office where we cannot see the various presentations nor hear what is being discussed, but we continue to attend.

At the regular Board meeting on Feb. 28, early into the meeting the Board held an Executive Session, this scheduled session was known in advance by the Board, CEO and Senior Management, we the citizens/voters did not know in advance. This action required the audience in the Boardroom to exit and join those of us in the outer office space. To say it was crowded is an understatement. People were leaning against the walls, sitting on the desk and taking turns on the few chairs made available. There were young and old (20’s to 80’s) waiting for at least 45 minutes for the meeting to resume.

I know there must be an appropriate location within the Hospital Facility to accommodate (a place where young and old would be able to sit and hear) everyone who is interested in attending these public meetings. The Boards’ total disregard for the citizens/voters of Public Hospital District #4 has been clearly demonstrated. We are not welcome at your meetings; you have made this abundantly clear. In addition, there is a rumor going around that the hospital employees have been strongly requested to attend these meetings to keep the citizens out of the Boardroom.

Somewhere along the way, the Board members and Hospital employees have deemed the Concerned Citizens of County Public Hospital District #4 the enemy. Everyone stop, reflect, and think, no one wants to lose any part of the facilities we have which included the Assisted Living facility.

This all began with the citizens committee acting on a request in the Gazette-Tribune at the end of November asking for help to save the Assisted Living facility. Out of genuine concern to help, a citizens group came together in mid December. This group of responsible interested people needed information about our public hospital to help them learn what could, if anything, be done to help. Within days of forming a group, it was all over. At the first meeting of the year on Jan. 10 the last order of business CEO Linda Michel and her Senior Management Team made a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners to close the Assisted Living Facility, and the Board unanimously accepted it. To say this action was a shock is an understatement, this made people who truly wanted to help, feel ridiculous for meeting, making calls, researching information and hoping to help. Why did you ask for help in the first place when you had obviously already made your decision to close the AL? Linda Michel, that was your decision as CEO selected by this sitting board, but it was a mistake on your part for thinking that no one would respond to your request for help. Didn’t you know, that is what small towns do, they genuinely try to help and take at face value a request for help, it’s why we live here.

We all know how fortunate we are to have this facility in our community. My father is alive today because of the outstanding care he received last summer at NV Hospital. I have seen firsthand the outstanding work the employees at NVH do and I have great respect for the work they perform.

Board members, you have a fiduciary responsibility to this public hospital district and the many citizens/voters who have supported your decisions in the past and I know you want our continuing support in the future. I am truly saddened by your treatment of this community, your community who has supported you.

We should all ask ourselves what and why did this get to where it is today and remember why we all live here in beautiful rural Okanogan County. Rural America only works when a community works together to keep the valuable amenities they have!


Shannon McLean