But commissioner Anthony Hemstad is hampering that business by continuously bringing up or promoting side issues that simply have nothing to do with an alliance. It’s what’s known as a red herring, or something that diverts attention away from what’s really important.
All those herrings he’s tossed into the air are now falling to the ground into a confusing mess. It’s hard to figure out where Hemstad stands, although he says now is the time to look at some of these big-picture issues.
No, it’s not.
Like it or not, the recession, federal demands for efficient delivery of health care and ever-increasing charity care are all conspiring to change how medical facilities, especially public ones, operate. That’s the reality and it demands the Valley commissioners’ full attention. An alliance with a premiere medical institution would help meet those demands – and enhance medical care for South King County residents.
And, like it or not, there’s a deadline (accepted unanimously by commissioners) that’s just a month away to make the decision to form an alliance. I disagree with Hemstad’s contention the alliance has been before the commissioners only since last January. Commissioners were briefed on the real issues facing Valley at a board retreat in October, although Hemstad missed part of it because he was in China. Valley CEO Rich Roodman has spent months exploring who would best fit Valley as a medical and business partner.
Frankly, Hemstad needs to decide whether he has the time to devote to Valley’s business; he’s the executive director of the World Trade Center in Tacoma. Just to set the record straight, MultiCare, one of Valley’s staunchest competitors, is no longer a member of that big business group. I bring that up because some argue MultiCare’s membership in Hemstad’s group was a conflict of interest for him.
In 2008 Hemstad resigned as Maple Valley’s city manager because of time conflicts with his board duties. He arrived late at Monday’s board meeting and left early before a key briefing on how to de-annex from the hospital district.
Hemstad pounds away on whether the public hospital district should exist at all. That debate has absolutely nothing to do with an alliance; doing away with a taxing district is defined in state law.
Monday, he even voted against expansion of Valley’s Birth Center, which regularly is at 90 percent of capacity. He thinks maybe the UW should weigh in on the expansion, but the alliance and its governing trustees can’t dictate how the hospital district will spend tax dollars.
Hemstad is worried about increasing the debt burden on taxpayers (hard to argue with, but still a red herring) to expand the tower, but the money is already available for the expansion, something that was pointed out to him at Monday’s meeting.
And, then there’s the move by part of Bellevue and Maple Valley to de-annex from the hospital district. That’s another reason to hold off on the alliance, Hemstad argues, because of potential changes to the district. But it’s a red herring, too, because as Hemstad freely states, de-annexations stand little chance because of the process involved, including approval by the Valley commissioners.
And if he’s worried about taxpayer burdens, he (and de-annexation proponents) also need to freely state that those who de-annex would still have to pay their obligations on Valley’s bonds long into the future. That’s self-imposed taxation without representation. And don’t forget that district taxpayers get a rebate on their taxes for hospital services, known as Valley Dividend.
Fellow commissioner Aaron Heide simply needs to step up. He didn’t engage in the discussion at the April 4 board meeting and even twice stepped out of that meeting to take a cell call – just as critic Josh Lyons was again going to question him about conflicts of interest as a board member.
Heide didn’t notify the board he would miss this Monday’s meeting; the board didn’t excuse his absence.
And, just to remind folks about Heide’s job, he’s a physician at the Auburn Regional Medical Center, also one of Valley’s competitors.
Hemstad was elected narrowly in 2007 with a promise to champion an open public process on the Valley board. Whether the process was broken is debateable and really had little to do with providing quality health care. Still, he has made a difference; now the public can watch commissioner meetings online and see for themselves the board dynamics. To be fair, all five commissioners contribute to that dynamic.
Why didn’t Hemstad present this “big-issue” agenda sooner or run for election in 2007 on such issues as rethinking whether a public hospital district is still necessary? He says now is the time for some “navel gazing” before any sort of alliance is approved.
No, it’s time to ensure the future of Valley Medical Center, addressing the realities we face now. Anything else is just a red herring.