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The Long Term View

It is the responsibility of a community to provide for the safety and well-being of its citizens as shown by the fire department, police services and school system.  It is also the community’s duty to provide adequate facilities, equipment and staff to take care of the needs of the doctors, who want to practice medicine and help people get well and remain healthy.  Our quality of life, our property values, the lives of our residents and our children depend on the availability of a good healthcare system on our island.

When Vashon Maury Health Collaborative formed, it soon became apparent that the doctors do not want to spend their time and efforts dealing with medical records, insurance claims, billing, government red tape and the details of running a medical facility.  The community must step up to form a foundation specifically to fund the creation and operation of a medical facility to improve the island’s medical environment with diagnostic and other necessary health care services.  This would result in transporting fewer patients off-island for medical treatment and allow us to respond to major emergencies.

Only the long term view can make this type of change in a community which might want an art center, a ball-field park and multi-million dollar high school improvements, but the community needs adequate health care to sustain itself into the future.  State officials and other communities have shown the collaborative that it can be done.  Only community support is needed to make it happen.               Vashon Island has many very talented doctors and medical professionals, who live on the island and commute off to go to work, and not enough doctors who have their practices on-island. The facilities and equipment for treating injuries and illness are extremely limited.  Any care, other than basic family healthcare, is sent off-island to specialists and hospitals in the area.

One of the worst nightmares would be seeing a parking lot full of injured people caused by an earthquake, fire or major accident and knowing that there is not medical care available and, possibly, no means of transportation off the island.  The island currently has two ambulances and maybe one helicopter from Harbor View Hospital and Air Care to transport critical patients to off-island hospitals.  We have limited ability to stabilize patients for any heart attack, stroke or other major injury.  The best medical equipment on the island is possibly at the veterinary clinic and on the ambulances.  The current island clinic does not even provide after-hours service.   
Each school day, hundreds of children pour off the ferry onto buses to attend classes in our schools.  How would we respond to a bus accident in which 50 kids are injured?  How will we care for injured children, who cannot return to their homes off-island in the event of a major earthquake?  How many parents would send their children to a school if they knew that there is no emergency care available?  While the addition of these children to our school system may be beneficial to the financial condition of the district, is it irresponsible to expose them to a situation in which we cannot provide for their safety?  Parents have to assume that precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of their children in school.  Is our school administration accurately representing the island’s safety and health resources to off-island parents?           
Daily, hundreds of adults leave their island homes and families to work off-island and leave to fate their spouses and children, assuming that they will see them again.  Is that  “big one” today?  Providing a good medical facility that can respond to major emergencies will not completely fix this situation , but it will certainly make it better.

Carl Sells, Gold Beach Drive SW