By Meg Olson
Fire district commissioners have emphatically turned down a request from the hospital district to change the sign for the Point Roberts clinic.
“There are a number of reasons to decline this request,” commissioner Shannon Tomsen said at the September 13 fire district meeting.
The new sign, she explained, was part of a move by Unity Care NW, the non-profit which operates the clinic under contract with the Point Roberts Hospital District, to change all their signs. “They feel strongly it will increase the overall professionalism of the clinic,” she said. “They’re using it as a marketing tool.”
The proposed new sign prominently features the Unity Care NW brand as a family practice, referencing their three locations in the county, with “in partnership with the Point Roberts Hospital District” below.
Tomsen said she felt the clinic could meet its marketing goals through advertising and said she felt “very uncomfortable allowing any vendor to put up a sign on this public building.” The hospital district leases their space in the Benson Road fire station from the fire district. The existing sign is on fire district property.
The clinic is more than a branch of Unity Care NW, Tomsen argued. It was created through a mix of local fundraising spearheaded by Ed Aydon and grants obtained by the Pioneer group. It continues to be supported by taxpayer dollars to make up the operational shortfall and allow the clinic to keep its doors open to serve the community. Any signage for the clinic, she said, should honor that. “We should be focusing ourselves on making sure people receive care rather than increasing business for their vendor,” she said.
“This started as a local project and should remain one,” agreed commissioner Bill Meursing. Commissioner Stan Riffle concurred and commissioners unanimously agreed the clinic could keep its current sign, or have no sign at all.
Hospital district commissioner Robin Nault said she was disappointed in the
fire commissioners’ decision and would have appreciated an opportunity for a dialogue with fire commissioners about why the hospital district was in support of new signage.
“The sign we have now is not visible and it’s not professional,” she said. Improved signage was critical to furthering their mission of serving the community’s medical needs by making sure every member of the community knew those services were available. “We want to ensure people see the clinic as the professional medical facility it is.”
Hospital district superintendent Elaine Komusi said the district commissioners wanted new signage that told the community what the clinic was today.
“We wanted people to know we’re a family practice, not just an urgent care facility,” she said. “We wanted them to know we’re part of a larger family.” Komusi said the partnership between the hospital district, the clinic and Unity Care Northwest had deepened in recent years.
“We have developed a better mutual understanding about community needs allowing us to expand services within our budget,” she said.
Nault said the sign on the building, reading “Point Roberts Aydon Wellness Clinic,” honors the grassroots efforts to create the clinic.
“We never want to forget where we came from but we wouldn’t be here today without our partnership with Unity,” she said, adding she hoped fire commissioners would leave the door open for a collaborative look at improved signage for the clinic.