Grays Harbor Community Hospital officials hope to have a proposal to form a public hospital district on the ballot in August, along with a request to levy property taxes and elect a hospital board.
They have already begun gathering signatures for a petition to call for an election. The hospital’s board of directors has decided it will take 2,000 signatures to place the formation of Grays Harbor Hospital District No. 2 before voters. The actual number is 1,502, but it is trying for 2,000 in case certain signatures are thrown out.
The tentative levy request is 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property, said hospital Director of Public Relations David Quigg. The hospital says 50 cents is the average tax rate for hospital districts. Quigg says they could decide to ask for 75 cents. The hospital’s current board of directors met Wednesday afternoon to further discuss the particulars, but nothing was finalized except the decision that they must have signatures collected by April 4 in order to be prepared by August.
Grays Harbor County Auditor Vern Spatz said he assisted the board in preparing a timeline to put the proposals on the November ballot, but had recently been told they were looking to prepare for the August ballot instead.
“I think it’s an optimistic scenario for them to get things together and do what they have to do, but I think it is possible,” said Spatz.
The hospital has issued promotional material for the petition, asking, “How much is your health worth?” It says the 50 cents per $1,000 ($50 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home) amounts to $4.17 per month, compared to the $6.69 it says Aberdeen residents pay monthly for storm drain maintenance.
The hospital, currently a private, non-profit institution, wants to become a public hospital to achieve greater financial stability by gaining funding from the recently passed Sole Community Hospital Legislation, which would help them with increased reimbursement from the state for Medicaid patients, as well as from “public funds, levied from the community.”
Currently the hospital’s board of directors consists of 12 community members. The steering committee will decide whether a three, five or seven-member board of commissioners is to be elected by the public on the same ballot as the formation of the public hospital district. Those commissioners will serve six-year terms.
Spatz said the board will have to wait until the signatures are approved by the county commissioners before advertising for two weeks and holding public hearings (up to four). The commissioners then submit a resolution for the general election ballot prior to a special 3-day filing period for the hospital board candidates. Quigg said the hospital is optimistic about the timeline.
“Yes, there are lots of things to get done, but the county has made it very clear and have been helpful along (in) this process,” he said.
In promotional material, the hospital answers the question of what would happen if the hospital district were not formed, saying that while “no one knows that answer,” it is the opinion of the hospital board and management that it “will not continue to provide the current quality medical care services” or grow to support future needs.
The hospital also currently owns a number of billing clinics in Montesano, Hoquiam and Aberdeen — and the details as to what will happen to those should the hospital become public are still being worked out, said Quigg.
“The minute details around those issues, attorneys are still working on and working with the county and trying to figure out exactly what this means for the district,” he said.
The petition is up in the hospital’s registration area. The hospital will assist businesses with sign-ups if they so desire, as well as individuals interested in assisting with collecting signatures. The hospital has also created a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/GrayHarborPHD, that will have more information regarding the petition.