A slew of East County residents said they were able, willing and support paying higher property taxes to benefit a growing public hospital district — just not Grays Harbor Community Hospital.
Instead, resident after resident testified during a public hearing on July 9 before the hospital commissioners at Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma asking the board to move forward with annexation plans and put the measure on the ballot in November, banking on the idea that residents will vote down Grays Harbor Community Hospital’s proposed hospital district in August.
Under consideration for annexation, which would need to be approved by the voters, would be the city of Montesano, as well as the precincts of Melbourne, Delezenne, Satsop, Brady, Black Creek and Wynooche. Basically, the hospital is looking to annex those with a 98563 ZIP Code.
Hospital commissioners with Summit Pacific will vote on the issue one more time during their regular board meeting, 6 p.m., July 24, in their commission chambers at the hospital in Elma.
The hospital has been pushing forward with its own expansion plans even though boosters of a new hospital district to support Grays Harbor Community Hospital want to use some of the same boundary areas, which has a competing measure on the August ballot. If the August measure passes, then Summit Pacific’s plans become moot. If it fails, then the annexation plans move forward.
Nobody from Community Hospital spoke or attended the public hearing at Summit Pacific. In fact, no one spoke against the proposed annexation at all, despite several dozen people in attendance.
“I don’t like the timing of Grays Harbor Hospital’s proposal,” said Mick Jones of Brady. “I think they are shoving that down East County’s throat. Now, what you all can do about that, I do not know. ... So, now we’ll have two hospital districts fighting each other for my little bit of tax money and I think it’s something like this ends up in the supreme court. You guys have done a beautiful job at this hospital. I really like it.”
John Dickinson of Brady said that his preference is to continue using Summit Pacific Medical Center and thinks annexation is a good idea.
“As soon as you hit Aberdeen, traffic with the bridges is a severe handicap,” Dickinson said. “I want to be in the hospital here in Elma. It’s a safety concern.”
Rich Forsman of Montesano said he wanted his taxes to go to improve Summit Pacific Medical Center with new equipment and to expand medical access to Montesano. The hospital board has been considering a proposal to add a clinic in Montesano, seeing a need for a new doctor in the community.
“Drag my dying, bleeding body across the Satsop River Bridge so they have to take me east,” Forsman told the hospital commissioners. “I will not die in that circus down there. I’ve been there before. My family has had some excellent care here since you opened. You’re very good people. I don’t want my taxes going to that clown show down there. … I want to be able to say, ‘It’s my life. Take me that way.’”
Samdra Jones of Brady says when a horse stepped on her foot, she went to Summit Pacific Medical Center and was able to see her primary physician, get X-rays and get everything she needed within an hour.
“I received excellent care and the staff was super friendly,” she said. “My point is — why would I want to go to Aberdeen when I have such a nice facility here? I would rather spend my tax dollars here making this an even better facility. And I think we can do that and complement Grays Harbor Community Hospital.”
Montesano Mayor Ken Estes, speaking on behalf of himself and not the city, encouraged the hospital commissioners to move forward with their annexation plans, noting that in a time of a crisis or a stroke, he could get the help he needs to stay alive at Summit Pacific and then get transferred to a larger hospital in Olympia within the “golden hour” or critical care.
“And I know if I came here, you people would fix me sufficiently to get me on up to St. Joe’s,” Estes said. “I’m very much in favor of you taking over this area because I am not interested in going down there. I will not ‘diss’ the other hospital. I will ‘diss’ the distance. It’s too far to drive.”
Several Summit Pacific employees also testified in favor of the move.
Hospital Commissioner Amy Thomason said she was happy to hear the positive comments from residents, who take pride in Summit Pacific’s work. She said she had expected to hear from at least someone concerned about increased property taxes that would come from being part of the hospital district. But that never happened. The Summit Pacific district currently levies 50 cents per thousand of a property’s assessed value.