By Polly Keary, Editor
Valley General Hospital got a new lease on life Tuesday when voters approved more than doubling the amount of property taxes the hospital receives.
The levy passed handily with more than 59 percent of the vote.
That means an additional $2.2 million annually for the hospital, and hospital leaders believed that without the levy, the hospital would have had to reduce many services and might have been fated for eventual closure.
Now, between the levy; efficiencies created by January’s affiliation with EvergreenHealth in Kirkland; savings from streamlining and other financial management measures, hospital leadership believes the hospital can break even. It has not been able to do that for some years.
“We were faced with some very difficult choices, had we not prevailed in this vote,” said hospital CEO Eric Jensen. “Now, we have the opportunity to use this success to move forward and strengthen Valley General Hospital’s ability to serve our community.”
In addition to a large group of dedicated volunteers, the levy got important support from endorsements by professional organizations, said Joel Selling, who spearheaded the campaign effort.
“It benefitted from endorsements from a huge amount of individuals and organizations, including firefighters and paramedics, all of whom saw the vital need to keep VGH in the community,” he said.
He also said that the best campaign strategy was just laying out the facts.
“Once the facts were on the table, the need for support was pretty overwhelming,” he said.
Selling said that, although he doesn’t work for the hospital as did many of the volunteers, he was driven by concern for the community.
“I have personally used the ER, and my family has gone to VGH for surgery, and I worked as hard as I did because this hospital has been important to my family’s personal safety,” he said. “Plus, the hospital is a major employer and a benefit to the safety of the many recreational tourists we have and the many more we want to attract.”
Jensen, who campaigned tirelessly, said that the levy opens the door to improving the hospital.
“We are extraordinarily grateful to the voters of our community for their vote to increase our hospital levy. It was an enormously important step to help ensure that our community has access to the healthcare it needs and deserves,” he said. “We’ve already taken strong, positive steps in helping put Valley General Hospital on solid footing with new veteran healthcare leadership and a very promising affiliation with EvergreenHealth. The voters agree that we are moving in the right direction, and we are excited about continuing our work.”