TONASKET — A decision by North Valley Hospital commissioners in January to close its assisted living facility has put two incumbent candidates in the hot seat on Nov. 5.
Dick Larson and Lael Duncan acknowledge that closing the facility and asking 27 seniors to move was unpopular. But, they say, after losing some $800,000 in seven years due low Medicaid reimbursements, the facility had to be closed to save the financially-struggling public hospital.
Duncan is now facing a challenge from Teresa Hughes, a vocal opponent of closing the facility. Larson is being challenged by Rosa Snider, who unsuccessfully asked a court to temporarily stop the closure, and sought to have all of the board members recalled.
Snider said she withdrew her recall request and decided to run for hospital commissioner instead. Larson said the public hospital district was nearly $4 million in debt several years ago. By Oct. 1, they reduced that debt to $327,000, he said.
And while it was hard to close the assisted living facility, he said, people he talked to believed it was more important to keep the hospital’s emergency room and related hospital services going.
But Snider said the community objected more to the way it was closed, than the fact that it was closed. “When the community said, ‘Wait, hold on. We don’t understand why the assisted living is closing.’ We were just shut out,” she said. As for reopening the assisted living, she said she would love to, “But I can’t make any promises.”
Hughes said she, too, opted to run for hospital commissioner over the assisted living closure. But since becoming involved, her reasons have grown.
She said she’s concerned that the board limits the public’s comments to specific times during meetings. “I want to gain back the community’s trust, and be a voice for the community,” she said, adding, “I just think it’s time for a change.
Duncan, whose goal is to continue to improve services at the hospital, said in addition to closing the assisted living, a series of measures were taken to help bring the hospital’s finances under better control. She said her experience and advocacy work can help keep the hospital on the right track. “We still have challenges, but everything that can be done is being done,” she said.