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Ballots arrive for hospital levy
MONROE — Ballots will be mailed out April 5 for Valley General Hospital’s levy increase proposal. Ballots are due back by April 23.
Volunteer groups like Citizens for Our Hospital have been holding meetings to rally support for the levy, distributed signs and have started making cold calls to their neighbors to spread word about the importance of the levy.
The levy asks for 37 cents per $1,000 assessed home value and would be the first levy increase for Valley General since the late 1990s. The levy would increase taxes for the average homeowner in the hospital district from about $28 a year to about $75. The average home value in the hospital district is $200,000.
The hospital’s current rate of 14 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value is the lowest in the state among public hospitals.
“We’re a group of concerned citizens in Monroe in hospital district No. 1 who want to ensure the levy passes because we’re concerned about the loss of services should the levy not pass,” Citizens secretary Eric DeDally said.
Valley General spokeswoman Collette Reams said that although Providence is building a new facility at North Kelsey, it will not replace an emergency room with the ability to keep really sick patients overnight. And the inpatient and emergency room services are some of the main reasons for the levy increase. 
“Providence will have primary care, specialty care, imaging, pediatrics — doctors you make an appointment with,” Reams said. “What it is not is a hospital. If you were sick enough and had to stay in the hospital overnight, that’s what we are.”
Valley General provides access to inpatient services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, Reams said. 
“There’s not a minute we’re closed,” Reams said. 
Joanna Weid, a trauma care specialist at the hospital, said the extra $30 to $40 isn’t much money to save a life.
“I can’t imagine someone not passing a levy for $40, to save your life, your neighbor’s life,” Weid said. “This isn’t just a property tax, this is life and death.”
Weid works as a trauma, stroke and cardiac coordinator for Valley General and also as a critical care transport nurse for a local ambulance company. Her work frequently brings her to the aid of patients who have only minutes to live before receiving emergency services.
“Where are these people going to go?” Weid said. “When you add the mileage and the highways, where are you going to take these patients when you only have the critical golden hour of survival?”
Reams said people requiring emergency surgery, like from a skiing accident, would not be able to use Providence as an alternative to Valley General. 
“Ambulances do not transport people to doctors, they transport them to emergency rooms,” Reams said. 
If the levy doesn’t pass, it would be very expensive to keep a 24/7 operation going for inpatient services and trauma teams, Reams said. 
The nearest emergency rooms outside of Monroe are in Everett and Kirkland. 
Valley General recently became an affiliate of EvergreenHealth of Kirkland, also a public hospital district, in part to save the struggling Monroe hospital from financial woes that have been stacking up for years, partly because of charity care. The affiliation is promised to improve and expand Valley General’s facilities, but funding for those improvements have to come from somewhere.
“(The affiliation) is an expansion of the great services that Evergreen provides like all the specialties that they have,” Reams said. “If Evergreen sees that we should provide this, they can’t just write us a check. They have a responsibility for their own taxpayers in their own district.”
The hospital’s current levy rate of 14 cents is the lowest in the state among public hospitals.
“The levy is critically important to maintain quality health care in east Snohomish County,” hospital board commissioner Neil Watkins said.
“The danger here is that without the dollars, it would be very difficult to keep the level 4 trauma care, and inpatient care going away is quite likely,” Watkins said.

 

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