Hospital commissioners get message loud and clear – no changes needed


Around three dozen people showed up in person or by Zoom at the Point Roberts hospital district’s regular meeting at the community center on May 8, apparently fearful that there was a surreptitious move afoot to replace SuperTrack Urgent Care, the current operators of the local health clinic on Benson Road. The concern was sparked by the Sunday night posting of an article on the Small Point Bulletin, an online blog owned by Vic Riley and Shannon (Tomsen) Riley. (The blog has no connection with the All Point Bulletin or the ePB.)
Following a presentation by Dr. John Anwar offering his services as a potential replacement for SuperTrack at the board’s April board meeting, Vic Riley made an extensive Open Public Records (OPR) request to the hospital district. In it, he asked for copies of communications between board chair Stephen Falk and district superintendent Barbara Wayland involving meeting agendas, Dr. Anwar, fellow commissioner Sara Oggel, Deb Shields and her family (Shields, a physician’s assistant, has previously sought to operate the clinic and is part of Anwar’s recent proposal), and Virginia Lester (a nurse practitioner who used to work at the clinic).
Riley made a similar request for all communications between those listed above and commissioner Sara Oggel as well as those with superintendent Barb Wayland. The requests were for materials going back to 2020. He subsequently made a follow-up request, saying commissioner Oggel had failed to comply fully with the first request.
The result of Riley’s OPR request was a startling revelation of backroom dealings, violations of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and communications involving commissioners Falk and latterly, Oggel in ongoing attempts to help Shields obtain the contract to run the clinic beginning in 2020 and remains ongoing. In doing so, Falk sought to have the district superintendent not learn of his efforts as well as fellow commissioners.
On May 2, Wayland discussed what had been learned from the OPR request with Matthew Ellsworth, executive director of the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts. In a follow-up email, Ellsworth told Wayland that he was “very concerned about the practice of commissioners conducting district business outside of public meetings. If one commissioner wants to educate themselves on a matter one-on-one with a party, that is allowed with the understanding the RCW is explicit that one commissioner has no authority to obligate, contract, or act on behalf of the district.
“My concern is that it appears that two commissioners are communicating with an outside party about doing business with the district. This is a clear violation of the OPMA. Even if the two commissioners' discussions are not simultaneous/same conversation.” (original emphasis, as written)
Wayland sent Ellsworth’s assessment to all three commissioners, adding that Ellsworth had offered to do a presentation on the OPMA. By law, commissioners are required to undergo training on the act when they assume office and every four years thereafter.
A meeting under the OPMA occurs when a quorum of the district’s board gathers with the intention of conducting district business. As the hospital district is a three-person board, when two of the three commissioners meet outside of an official meeting to discuss district issues, whether in person, by text or telephone, simultaneously or sequentially, by law it is considered an illegal meeting.
At the district’s February 14 meeting, Falk said that he had only recently heard that Dr. Anwar had been practicing medicine on the Point. This was somewhat surprising given that Anwar had been advertising his services in the All Point Bulletin since April 2023. In addition, Anwar had contacted Falk by text on October 30, 2023, asking if he was available to chat the following day. Falk replied, “Friend of Deb (Shields)?” Subsequently, Falk asked Shields if Anwar was the doctor he had been hearing about. On November 16,• Falk met Anwar for lunch at the White Spot restaurant in Tsawwassen. The two exchanged texts in January, February and March.
At the district’s March meeting, Falk brought up the subject of having Anwar present at the following month’s meeting but gave no indication how he knew that Anwar was prepared or still intended to give a presentation. In fact, on March 14, Falk had texted Anwar to tell him, “If you want it, you are on the agenda for the April meeting.”
In all, there are numerous emails and texts showing communications between Falk and Oggel and Shields and Anwar discussing district business out of view of the public. The response has been vocal and intense.
First to speak at the May meeting was Lucy Williams. “My husband, Dr. Dick Williams served on this commission as chair. Dick taught ethics at Southern California University. Ethics were extremely important to him. If he saw another commissioner in the grocery store, he would wave and walk right by them. … The laws are important; you don’t have secret meetings. … We put these people in office to serve our needs,” she said. After praising the clinic’s doctors and their practice, Williams said voters needed to be careful who they elect to the district board. “If you voted them in and they’re not serving your needs, vote them out. If it’s mid-election and we don’t want them, then we’ll look into moving them out,” she concluded. Falk’s term of office runs to December 2025; Oggel’s until 2027, Newbolt’s 2029.
Williams was followed by four speakers, each of whom gave examples of exemplary care by the current clinic staff. The last to speak in person said, “My name is Donna. I'm a retired RN, I've worked with a lot of doctors, and I've known a lot of doctors. And I think that Dr. Evans and Dr. Sean are up there with the best of them, they get the job done in the amount of time that they're given to do what they need to do while you're in the office with a magnificent personal touch. I would hate to lose them. They're fabulous. And I say, why change it if it's a good system, it's working.”
Comments then came from some of the 23 people who were attending by Zoom. First to speak was Vic Riley who said he and his wife Shannon produce the Small Point Bulletin and had published a story about the district on Sunday night. “If you haven’t read it, the summary is this: Commissioner Falk has been conspiring with Deb Shields to replace SuperTrack since at least 2020 out of the view of the public, the superintendent, and the other commissioners for the benefit of Deb Shields. By hiding this, he has made himself answerable to Deb Shields and not the public. … He has violated his oath of office to be impartial … any motion to consider a competitor who is clearly inferior on almost every objective measure would be a transparent attempt to use [his] position as a public official to benefit [himself]. Stephen (Falk) has demonstrated that he is unfit for office and must resign,” Riley concluded.
Next up was his wife Shannon who related her history in the creation of the clinic and hospital district. She pointed out that, as an internist, Anwar could not see patients under the age of 18, nor could those under his supervision. After pointing out other weaknesses in his capabilities, she said, “Most importantly, he does not understand that Deb has zero privileges at St. Joes, our nearest hospital. That means she cannot refer a patient and she cannot actually seek medical records on her own. His cavalier attitude about these issues is deeply concerning to me and indicates he would be willing to put our district at substantial risk for a lawsuit.”
Following the financial report, SuperTrack principal and part-owner Dr. Sean Bozorgzad typically discusses the provider’s report. In this instance, he began with a request to speak to the commission. Referring to the information that came out on Sunday, he said, “We view the actions of certain members of this commission as a hindrance to our ability to deliver care to the people of Point Roberts. We find this environment challenging but I wanted to tell all of our patients and friends and community that please rest assured that we will continue to serve you with the utmost diligence and care until these issues are resolved.”
Bozorgzad related how his company had come to Point Roberts and described what SuperTrack offers far exceeds what the contract requires. “We now provide primary and urgent care three days a week with three qualified MDs. We provide two days of care by an experienced RN and we also provide two days of coverage by telemedicine,” he continued. He pointed out that the clinic offers selected medications and is expanding that to blood pressure and diabetes medicine as part of a move to create a diabetes clinic along with other benefits not previously offered by the clinic before SuperTrack.
“So given our performance record and the feedback from the community, we were really shocked to see some of those communications back and forth from some members of the commission … This pattern seems to be long term and repetitive. The activities of the commissioners likely violate important government and public ethics laws … If these activities lead to the termination of the SuperTrack contract, they may also constitute intentional interference with the contract. Not only will the Point Roberts community be harmed, but SuperTrack and its employees will be harmed … If these activities persist, the commissioners who are engaged in them as well as the hospital district will be at risk for significant financial liabilities. We have shown our commitment to Point Roberts and we would like to build on the foundation that has been made,” he said. Offering a few more closing statements, Bozorgzad then provided clinic figures showing a significant increase in patient visits in April compared to the prior year.
Wayland gave an abbreviated superintendent’s report, commenting that it had “been an interesting month” and that she had received lots of calls about the situation. “I think that everybody knows what’s going on. It’s been published and people have seen things. I will have a much more detailed report for next month,” she concluded.
Finishing up the meeting, Falk said, “Well, I’m happy to say I haven’t read the Small Point Bulletin. I gave up on that six years ago when they were going after the previous hospital board. I only saw the headline that said I was involved with some conspiracies and I’m not sure about that. I won’t comment further on their document that I haven’t read.”
Commissioner Newbolt addressed Falk directly by Zoom. “The manner in which you brought forward Dr. Anwar was done quite underhanded and not letting the superintendent even know that he was invited to the meeting and certainly not letting the other commissioner, me, know; I’m a little pissed and maybe you should read the report."
Commissioner Oggel had nothing to say.

* This article has been edited to delete  1 p.m., the original agreed-upon time of meeting. In fact, the two met earlier in the a.m.

All Point Bulletin: Interesting times at hospital district

Small Point Bulletin


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