The duty of Valley Medical

In the last election, I was elected on a reform platform to try and bring more transparency to governing King County Public Hospital District 1 (Valley Medical Center). I want to thank you for the trust that so many citizens and voters have placed in myself and other elected officials to work together to ensure public resources are being used for the maximum public good.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 12:30pm
  • Opinion

In the last election, I was elected on a reform platform to try and bring more transparency to governing King County Public Hospital District 1 (Valley Medical Center). I want to thank you for the trust that so many citizens and voters have placed in myself and other elected officials to work together to ensure public resources are being used for the maximum public good.

The 450,000 citizens who live in this district are well-served by the dedication and excellent service that Valley Medical’s 1,800 employees provide the community. We need to continue that service, building on the high-quality care provided by Valley Medical’s hospital and clinic network.

Valley Medical is a public hospital owned by the people. As such, it has a duty to work toward the highest openness and transparency in its governance. There have been several regrettable instances in recent years, such as running emergency elections without publishing voters’ pamphlets and the biggest settlement in state history for misuse of taxpayer funds to run political campaigns benefiting the hospital. If there had been greater public oversight and transparency systems in place, it is much less likely that these unfortunate instances would have occurred.

When the Port of Seattle received considerable scrutiny about its troubled past practices, it responded by transforming itself from a relatively secretive organization to today being one of the most open and transparent governments in the region. It should be commended for such openness.

I urge Valley Medical to follow the port’s example and strive to become another of the most open and transparent publicly owned organizations.

It is concerning when the initial response to my 10-point reform program has included an attempt to move meetings to the one time I can’t attend (repealed after calls by the state attorney general’s office and the appearance of KING 5 TV crews to investigate this unprecedented move to disenfranchise an elected official) and the passage of Valley Medical’s first-ever “Code of Ethics” as the last act of the outgoing commission, which, according to First Amendment advocates from the Institute for Justice, clearly blocked the freedom of speech of elected officials. Encouragingly that code is now being reviewed, as well, to ensure it follows the Constitution and state law.

Still, it would be even more encouraging if the initial response was for openness and dialogue, not work on silencing inconvenient voices that challenge the status quo.

Valley Medical has an extremely important mission to strengthen healthcare delivery in south King County, while also providing care for those without their own resources. It is an integral part of the area’s improving quality of life. By further opening up to public oversight, Valley Medical will become even more closely intertwined with the community it serves, ensuring many more decades of public support.

I look forward to working with the other commissioners and the public to make sure that Valley Medical follows the Port of Seattle’s positive example of transformation. By letting more sunshine into Valley Medical’s governance, both the voters and staff of Valley Medical will benefit.

Anthony Hemstad is a member of Valley Medical Center’s Board of Commissioners. He also is Maple Valley’s city manager.


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