ELMA — Hospital commissioners in charge of Summit Pacific Medical Center unanimously approved asking the voters in the Montesano area to consider being part of the existing East County public hospital district.
The move, done July 24 during the commissioners’ regular meeting, banks on the idea that residents will vote down Grays Harbor Community Hospital’s proposed hospital district in August.
Community Hospital boosters have proposed a new hospital district that takes in Summit Pacific’s proposed annexation area, including 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.
If Community Hospital’s ballot measure is approved, then Summit Pacific’s plans become moot. If it fails, then the annexation plans move forward.
A public hearing conducted earlier this month drew several dozen people to the commission chambers, with overwhelming support for Summit Pacific to move forward with their plans.
“It was all positive,” said Hospital Commissioner Louie Figueroa. “It was amazing. They were not just supportive, but aggressively supportive.”
“I think that’s because we aggressively support our community,” Hospital Commissioner Chad Searls said.
“And instead of battling against the negative, we just had all positive comments,” Hospital Commissioner Amy Thomason said.
The deadline to submit the resolution to the County Auditor’s Office is Aug. 5 — the same day as the primary election, where results will be known on Community Hospital’s ballot measure.
Summit Pacific CEO Renée Jensen said that after the ballot results are known, and if Community Hospital passes its measure, further board action may be needed to pull the resolution.
Jensen said that a community forum has tentatively been set for 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Aug. 6 at Montesano City Hall to go over the proposal.
Meantime, Summit Pacific is paying for a phone poll for residents in the Montesano and Brady areas to better assess their needs.
Jensen said that the hospital is asking residents about their take on potential urgent care services that the hospital is considering adding, as well as support for a clinic in the Montesano area. The hospital’s foundation is also paying for an additional question to see if residents would support the annexation efforts, Jensen said.
“This work will support the data analysis that was conducted in January and help guide our service line selection going forward,” Jensen said. “Montesano was identified in the market analysis as an underserved area, this survey will be a good tool to help us identify what the community perception of needs might be.”
Jensen notes that the earlier study found that Montesano was in need of three more medical providers. At this point, however, the data is dated because Dr. Grant Jackson of the Montesano Clinic recently gave notice to his patients that he was leaving the clinic.
That just leaves an ear, nose & throat specialist and a nurse practitioner in the Montesano Clinic, Dr. Ki Shin and Dr. Clara Shin, who have their own practice at Montesano Internal Medicine, but aren’t taking many new patients; and Hometown Family Health with two nurse practitioners, who opened their clinic last fall.
“The community now needs four more providers, based on our data, and really needs another doctor,” Jensen said.
The hospital commissioners also approved a motion to allow the hospital administration to work with officials at Fire District 2 to figure out ways to handle any impacts the annexation may have on the fire district.