Still need to address housing for elderly

Editorial Gary MugWhile the ill feeling about closing the Assisted Living at North Valley Hospital persists, the fact that the hospital is now closer to being untethered from $3 million in warrants is a positive thing. The hospital district is leaner – we’ve lost some services, but gained others with new surgical rooms added recently to go with the other improvements to the hospital – helping to fulfill promises made when we voted to remodel and expand the old facility. I’ve gotten to see the new surgery up-close and personal (well at least before I was put under). What I can remember was they looked much improved over what they had the last time I was there.

There will be many challenges to come to make sure that the North County community continues to be served by a quality hospital. The reality is our hospital, like many rural, relatively small, public hospitals struggles to remain modern and provide the best in patient care. Often that’s because the surrounding tax base is smaller than those you see in the bigger urban and suburban areas and the percentage of charity cases to private and insurance pay patients is much greater. Obamacare or not, North Valley will probably continue to dance on the edge of insolvency for years to come. It’s not a for profit hospital, not in the sense of a private or corporate hospital, but neither should it be in the business of losing money. Continuing to hemorrhage money would mean eventually we’ll have no hospital at all. Taking in enough money pay the bills, set some money aside for a rainy day and continuing to modernize where we can will probably be the most we can ever hope for. And that would be enough.

However, continuing to fixate on past decisions won’t get us any closer to fulfilling the need for housing the elderly, those that aren’t ready for a nursing home, but want a place to live where they can be happy and get some assistance. The Assisted Living isn’t coming back, so what should we do? The Oroville Housing Authority continues to look into the Greenhouse Project. The OHA board would like to eventually build two or three six-person elder care homes. I’ve talked about it before and we’ve taken the first steps in pursuing the project. OHA decided our property on Eastlake Road near Lake Osoyoos, would be a great place for two or three of these homes and the board designated $10,000 to start the process of finding financing. Now we want a few dedicated people to make up a subcommittee to help us because between the low-income apartments, the Eastlake Harvest Park and the Homeless Shelter, the board and staff doesn’t feel it has the time to dedicate itself as fully as it would like to the project. With the help of a subcommittee we could move the process along.

If the OHA’s dream of building three of these residences becomes a reality we could make room for 18 of our elderly. Our inspiration, two of these residences in Twisp, came before the Assisted Living in Tonasket closed when we knew there was even more need then the hospital district was providing. With the Assisted Living shut down, that need increased many fold. It would be great to eventually have three or four of these in Oroville and perhaps expand with more in Tonasket.

But even if we succeed in building our own “Green Houses” we will still have some of the same problems the hospital faced. We can’t operate entirely on state or public pay alone. Half or more of our residents will have to be private pay, at least to start. The good thing about what we’re trying to do is that our residents will continue to be able to live in their homes even when their financial circumstances change.

All this takes careful planning and the housing authority needs help. If you think you’d like to be on a subcommittee contact me at or write me at Editor, Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune, P.O. Box 250, Oroville, WA. 98844 and I’ll submit your name to the board as being interested in helping.

For more on the Greenhouse Project in Twisp see: Click Here

And for the Greenhouse Project’s national website: Click Here