East Washingtonian - Your Hometown News Source

Hospital Update

Retiring director offers observations


December 26, 2019

POMEROY–Garfield County Hospital District Board and staff would like to thank Gary Houser for the many years he has served this hospital and our community.

Gary grew up in Pomeroy and graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in Economics. He worked for a stock brokerage firm in Seattle and Spokane before returning to farm in 1973. His father, Alton Houser, served on the Hospital Board when the hospital was built in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Gary served on the Board in the late 1970s and most recently was appointed to fill the term of Matt Hansen. Gary also serves as the managing trustee of the Harold and Helen Shepherd Foundation.

GHCD would like to give Gary Houser the opportunity to make some observations as he leaves the Board of Commissioners with the following:

The District cannot survive without more tax help. We need a nursing home and 75% of the patients depend on Medicaid. The private nursing homes that might come in to take over operations of the nursing home indicate that would not tolerate more than 60% Medicaid patients. I am willing to pay taxes to cover the patients who need Medicaid help to be in the nursing home. We run the nursing home as hospital and the patients are “Swing Bed” patients in order to get more money from Medicaid.

People complain about the turnover of the clinic staff. We no longer have the Dr. Weilands or Dr. Shirleys who devoted their lives to our town. Times have changed. The Board has attempted to associate with other facilities to increase the quality of care and are continuing to pursue these affiliations. It would help attract and retain quality staff if the staff felt the community stood behind keeping a high-quality facility.

The Emergency Room (ER) is very expensive to maintain. If we did not have it, the Fire Department will need more tax money to fund full-time paramedics. See Ed Fruh’s letter in the past EW edition. The ER is the best platform for the helicopter emergency services.

The Board needs to develop a plan showing how it can keep the facility open with a reasonable annual levy, maybe $200,000-$300,000 level. The voters need to say “yes.” The Board should encourage the creation of an endowment through the Blue Mountain Community Foundation (BMCF) that is wisely invested. If the money from the L. T. and Molly Christopherson and W. B. and Mattie Morris funds had been wisely invested, they could be making a difference. We currently have only about $70,000 in the Medical Fund but it can grow and be important to the future. If it is invested with the BMCF, it can grow and it won’t be squandered. All in all, I am willing to pay more tax if it is well managed and we keep our facility.

I think the current management team is very good and will work to keep the quality and efficiency of the system at high levels.


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