Opinion

Community healthcare deserves your support, vote Yes on Proposition I

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Voters will have the opportunity in the May 15 special election to ensure the communities in north Snohomish County have access to comprehensive healthcare in a facility capable of meeting the current and future needs of the people it serves.
Thats when people who reside within Snohomish County Public Hospital District No. 3 will decide the fate of Proposition 1,
a $45 million construction bond proposal
to upgrade and expand Cascade Valley Hospital.
The hospitals current facilities are outdated and undersized. Built in 1957, the original hospital is a half-century old and the patient services expansion is 20 years old. Neither has kept pace with the significant growth in the number of patients or the advances in medical care and technology.
The number of patients treated each year at Cascade Valley Hospital continues to increase. Over the past 10 years the number of patients receiving care at CVH has increased by approximately 150 percent, from 29,335 in 1996 to 68,645 in 2006. The emergency room has also seen a significant increase over the past decade. In 1996, 11,202 patients were treated in the emergency room. By 2001 that number had jumped to 16,380 and 21,877 people were treated in the ER in 2006. So, in just the past 10 years the number of patients treated in the ER has nearly doubled, meaning that now some ER patients must wait up to six to eight hours for treatment during peak times. It is clear the capabilities of the facility have not kept up with the growth in population.
The bond, if approved, would provide the funds to upgrade and expand the Emergency Room to reduce patient wait times and overcrowding; increase Emergency Room capacity from the current six beds to 16 beds; add a short-stay observation unit to the ER to ensure ER beds are kept open for patients needing critical emergency care; expand and upgrade the operating room, child birthing center and intensive care units; reconfigure the hospital for maximum operational efficiency and cost savings; and upgrade and expand laboratory and imaging departments to ensure state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment of patients.
The proposed improvements were all identified as important in an April 2006 telephone survey commissioned by CVH. When asked if they would support a bond issue for facility expansion, 72 percent of the survey respondents said yes if it would expand the emergency department; 65 percent said yes if it enhanced the hospitals diagnostic imaging capabilities; 62 percent said yes if it would replace the 50-year-old portion of the facility and 67 percent said yes if the bond expanded operating room facilities.
In the same survey, participants were asked what key community issues were very or extremely important. Eighty percent responded keeping a full-service hospital in Arlington; 82 percent said maintaining physicians in the community and 69 percent said improving the local hospital facilities.
It is clear that people recognize the need and the importance of having comprehensive healthcare available in our community. The May 15 question is, are they willing to pay for it?
The $45 million bond proposal, if approved, would cost an estimated 81 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That means the bond would cost the owner of a $300,000 home $243 per year, or about $20 per month a reasonable amount to ensure that our community, and the people who call it home, have access to comprehensive healthcare in a facility capable of meeting the growing population and changing technology for years to come.
A criticism of the proposed bond is that the current hospital district boundaries, which were established in 1964, do not include all the areas served by the hospital and that should the boundaries be expanded to include those areas, the cost for individual property owners would drop as the total cost of the bond was shared by more property owners. While this may be true, it is unlikely that residents in the surrounding areas would ever vote in favor of being included in another taxing district. So to do nothing, or to vote against the bond because of issues with the districts boundaries means that needed improvements would not be made. And each year that improvements are not made, the cost increases meaning increased costs to property owners.
Having access to healthcare in our community is critical, as is having a facility that can meet the demands of a growing population and rapidly changing technology. A Yes vote on Proposition 1 would ensure that Cascade Valley Hospital will be able to continue to meet those needs now and for years to come. The bond proposal requires a 60 percent super-majority to pass. So when your ballot arrives in the mail in the next week or two, we encourage you to take the time to vote Yes on Proposition 1, our community deserves no less.

To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Kris Passey or Scott Frank e-mail forum@premier1.net.

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