Hospital district on the search for new health services provider

By Pat Grubb

The Point Roberts Hospital District is searching for an organization to replace the outgoing health services provider, Unity Care NW. Following up on the introduction of a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) at the district’s special meeting held July 25, an RFP was approved by district commissioners at its regular meeting on August 1.

“We’re well ahead of where we could be,” said district superintendent Barbara Wayland. “It’s a huge relief to have this taken care of.” Originally, August 23 had been the working goal to get the RFP out; however, Wayland had said she intended to expedite the process.

Wayland said the plan was to contact organizations initially by telephone to ask if they’d be interested in receiving an RFP and to follow up based upon their response. The district also scheduled notices that appeared in the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association’s statewide advertising network and in the Seattle marketplace.

Wayland told the board that she expected it would take around six weeks before they would start to see RFPs being returned but she intended to ask for expressions of interest within two or three weeks.

An important issue facing the district is how the Point Roberts clinic would fit with a potential service provider.

One of the reasons given by Unity Care NW when announcing its decision to not extend its contract with the district was the difference in client base between Point Roberts and the other Unity Care NW clinics.

Approximately 50 percent of Point Roberts patient visits involve urgent care where someone needs immediate attention for a cut or an infection while the remaining visits are continuing health care issues. Urgent care patients represented a much smaller proportion of the Unity Care NW patient base.

It’s possible that the clinic might be forced to operate as a standalone clinic if a service provider doesn’t materialize. “I think we have to have several tracks going at the same time,” said board chair Dick Williams, “with the first step being a request for proposals.”

Wayland told the board that she was reviewing how the clinic could renew its rural health clinic status which it had in the clinic’s early years. PeaceHealth has rural health clinics in Alaska and Friday Harbor which “makes it appear they are more pro-active in that area,” Wayland said.

Wayland and commissioner Kandace Harper have already met or communicated with prospective service providers.

“Out of the goodness of her heart, [Kandace] has volunteered to make some of the calls to potential providers,” Wayland said. “I’m really hoping that this goes on for five months and then, boom, we’re through this and we’ll be back to normal.”

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