Community forum on Assisted Living held in Oroville

OROVILLE – Up until now most of the meetings on the fate of North Valley Hospital’s Assisted Living facility have taken place in Tonasket, but last week many of those opposing its closure met in Oroville to say why they’re fighting the hospital district’s closure plan.

About two dozen were in attendance at the Oroville High School Commons on Tuesday, March 17 to hear what Rosa Snider, Lisa Andrews, Danny Gratrix and Connie Maden had to say. The four presented a Power Point presentation which followed the timeline of the hospital board’s decision to close the facility at the end of Match. The presentation had several charts, including one outlining the raises for the top nine paid positions over the past two years.

“It took us awhile but we’ve gotten factual info through public records requests. It took several months to accumulate,” said Andrews, who has worked 13 years in the healthcare field, 11 of them for the North Valley Hospital District, mostly in administration and marketing.

Snider said she had spent 17 years in the medical field in billing, management and program development.

“Having grown up in this community we feel it is important to get the facts in front of you,” Snider said.

“We’ve been challenged since November trying to get information and find a solution to keeping senior healthcare local,” said Andrews. “If it wasn’t for us stepping up as taxpayers in the past, the hospital district wouldn’t have survived.

They asked why it doesn’t appear that any of the money from the levy shows up as revenue for the Assisted Living, but they say goes toward the hospital’s other divisions.

The hospital board passed a resolution in 2002 refinancing the 1991, 1995 and 1997 Assisted Living Bonds into one Limited general Tax Obligation Bond. Payments for the Bond refinance come out of the Hospital’s General Fund at $18,000 a month, they say. The bond is paid twice a year at $108,000 per payment and will not be paid off until 2022, according to the group.

“In the State Auditor’s Report for 2010 and 2011…. it states the Limited Tax Obligation Bond’s principal and interest ‘shall be paid by levying each year a maintenance and operation tax upon taxable property in the district,” said a chart about the Assisted Living Bonds.

“The district shows a 7-year loss of $821,308. If the M & O taxes were collected, the interest and principal should have been paid with these funds. This would result in a 7-year $18,270 loss for the assisted living,” the chart claims.

The group asked why the top nine salaried positions had seen raises from the hospital board totaling an additional $280,000 a year, while administration claims the shortfall for the Assisted Living Facility is about $100,000 annually.

As far as the raises go, they said CEO Linda Michel got a raise from $130,000 a year to $160,000 a year, while warrants, money owed to the county, still hovers around $2 million.

They went on to talk about unfilled Assisted Living rooms, despite people who wanted to get into the facility, use of rooms for other hospital purposes, spending money on construction on the second floor of the hospital and the Drip Line Coffee shop. They also discussed layoff and cuts and asked where the money went.

There were two hearings scheduled in Okanogan County Superior Court for last Tuesday (after press time). One is asking for an injunction against the board’s move to close the facility as of March 31 and the other is asking for approval of a recall petition for the board’s five commissioners.

Rosa Snider said they were two separate issues and not everyone that opposes the facility’s shut down supported both measures.

The group asked those in attendance to get involved by attending hospital board meetings, speaking out, staying informed and writing letters to the editor, to the commissioners and to state legislators. They also asked for attendance at the injunction hearing Tuesday.