Hospital district puts off provider decision

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The question of who would become the next service provider for the Point Roberts Clinic came and went with no decision after district superintendent Barbara Wayland, commissioner Kandace Harper and members of the public called for more examination of the two proposals that had been received by the hospital district.

After a prolonged discussion about whether it was necessary to delay the decision in order to allow the public a chance to look at the proposals, chair Stephen Falk and commissioner Richard Dennis reluctantly agreed to put off the decision until a special meeting to be held one week later on August 18.

The district had received proposals from the existing service provider, SuperTrack Urgent Care of Bellingham, and the Shields Company, a new company formed by Deb and John Shields. Deb Shields was formerly one of the two health professionals working at the clinic but was forced out after she announced her intention to pursue the contract held by her employer, SuperTrack.

The two contracts are identical, financially, as both rely on payments from the district out of tax receipts. Falk described the situation as “basically a shift between the status quo and a new provider” but pointed out that the new provider would have the same personnel as previously. Both providers would continue to employ nurse practitioner Virginia Lester. Falk indicated that he was leaning toward the new provider, i.e. The Shields Company.

The question of public input was raised by Wayland who told commissioners that she had received a number of comments from the public concerned that they hadn’t seen the proposals, adding that she believed it was worthwhile to allow the public to have a look and provide their input. After Falk said that he hadn’t heard anything to that effect, Dennis agreed, saying commissioners were elected to make decisions. Harper told the two that it was her recollection that there would be a discussion about the proposals and then the decision would be made at a follow-up meeting.

Apart from the financial aspects, the main differences between the two providers had to do with service levels, perceived expertise and added value. For instance, the Shields Company, if they were to receive the contract, would begin on January 1, 2021 with four days of service, Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with a total of 27 hours a week.

Correction/Clarification: This article originally cited 19 hours of operation. It has been updated to 27 hours. In addition, the company has asked for the following information to be included:

  • 24-7 on-call after hours & urgent care coverage, outside of regular office hours.  Additionally, this is reflective of a local team that can see patients In Point Roberts, as needed. For example: if a patient call comes in and they do not need to be directed to the ER but need sutures, a provider would then meet them at the clinic to address that health issue.

SuperTrack, in contrast, would offer seven days a week service, with three of them covered by an MD (one day) and an ARNP or PA; two days by a medical assistant and telemedicine contact with the Bellingham clinic and telemedicine on the weekend.

Local resident Judy Ross asked commissioners if they had considered the financial capitalization of the Shields Company. The issue had first been raised in a commission meeting in June when Deb Shields had presented her proposal to run the clinic. Dennis had asked, “I want to know about the capitalization of Shields Company which I gather is a newly formed company. How would the company deal with the lag time between services performed and reimbursement received?”

The issue was not discussed by any commissioner at the latest meeting; however, the Shields Company proposal included a list of five names (other than the Shields) who had pledged $51,000 to support the company initially with the Shields putting in another $15,000 from investment savings.

The SuperTrack proposal did not include financial information, presumably because it is an on-going concern operating two Bellingham clinics and the one at Point Roberts.

The two proposals and business plan may be viewed at pointrobertsclinic.com/public-info/.

The district will accept public comments up until the commission’s special meeting on Tuesday, August 18 at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held on Zoom and signup information will be posted prior to the meeting. No public comment will be accepted at the meeting itself.

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