This article was recently published in Orcas Issues and The Sounder. Due to the importance of the message, we feel it is worth repeating here.

OIHCD was established to ensure the Orcas Island community has access to quality, affordable, primary and urgent health care, as well as access to a provider after-hours when deemed medically appropriate. We (elected Commissioners) have spent much of our time since the District was formed working to understand the existing health care model and discerning how well this model delivers in these areas. We have also worked to comprehend the complex health care reimbursement system and the constraints of delivering care on a rural, remote island.

To date, OIHCD has partnered with the two existing practices, UW Medicine Orcas Clinic who has experience operating primary care clinics, and Orcas Family Health Center with experience operating a rural health care clinic. We worked collaboratively with each practice to ensure that they have the financial resources to meet the needs of the patients they serve. The subsidy provided by OIHCD was effective in stabilizing both practices.

However, the magnitude of increase in the fiscal year 2020 budgets submitted by both practices generated subsidy levels that were unexpected and substantial. As a result, we are compelled to recognize that it is time to acknowledge and concede that the current model of supporting two separate practices is not financially sustainable. Beyond the cost constraints, the current structure doesn’t deliver the full scope of services we deem essential for the ideal island model.

As we look to the future, OIHCD seeks to support a model of care that is appropriate for our population and financially sustainable. We recognize the services people choose to seek on island varies, and we will strive to meet the needs of the entire community. We are convinced that a single clinic model, working collaboratively with other health care stakeholders, is the best approach to meet the community’s needs.

To demonstrate our commitment to a single clinic model, the OIHCD is planning to move to a consolidated funding approach in 2021. Over the next few months, we will continue exploring the options available and work closely with the leadership in the existing practices to help inform and encourage a new model of health care on Orcas. We value the providers and staff in both practices and go about this work with a sensitivity to the complexities and personnel involved.

Throughout this process we also remain committed to hearing from the community and keeping the community informed. We appreciate the confidence and continued support of the community and believe by working together we will be successful in creating the right health care model for Orcas Island.