Vice chair of the Evergreen Healthcare Foundation Kinnon W. Williams is taking on longtime incumbent Rebecca Hirt for the EvergreenHealth board of commissioners position No. 2 seat this November.
Williams said the board needs fresh blood and new leadership for the publicly-elected position.
“I have a different background and I would be replacing someone whose entire career has been at the hospital,” said Williams, who lives in Bothell and has raised more than $30,000 in campaign funds, according to the Public Disclosure Commission. “I think we need somebody with a wider range of experience.”
Williams is an attorney at his self-owned company Williams & Williams, PSC and has served as an elected Northshore Utility District commissioner for 14 years.
But Hirt, who lives in Kirkland and has raised around $1,800 for campaigning, said her nearly 30 years of experience on the board of commissioners proves her commitment to the health of the EvergreenHealth community.
“My commitment to the health of this community started as an employee when Evergreen had 76 beds,” Hirt said in the King County voters’ pamphlet. “I have knowledge of health care, a complex industry, and the experience needed to make difficult decisions facing the board in a constantly changing environment.”
Hirt opened the EvergreenHealth Midwifery Care to provide mothers with other options during her time with the board. She also co-chairs the board quality committee.
As a public hospital district, EvergreenHealth Medical Center is governed by five commissioners. Commissioner District position No. 2 represents the cities of Kirkland and Kenmore and is expected to make decisions on the hospital’s budget, policy and hiring the CEO, among other duties.
With an uncertain future in health care reform, Williams and Hirt believe an increase of insured patients will greatly impact the hospital.
Williams believes the hospital could play a bigger role in preventative care by focusing on proper nutrition or alternative forms of treatment, such as chiropractic or midwifery care, so that costs are reduced and people aren’t forced to go to the extreme.
“We could be more transparent in our billing process to patients, and through preventative care maybe we can cut down costs,” Williams said. “Whether people like it or not, public hospitals are taking care of people without insurance.”
And as more people get health insurance, the likelihood of those people using emergency care clinics will increase, while those who use the emergency room for issues that could have been prevented will decrease, he continued.
Hirt expects the influx of insured patients will call for an increase in demand for primary care physicians, which in turn, she said, could lead to problems of access.
“If re-elected, I will strongly support the recruitment of well qualified family practice physicians and internists, both those employed by EvergreenHealth and independent primary care practices,” Hirt said.
Although, Hirt claims she’ll keep taxes low at a time when “revenues [are] decreasing and costs [are] increasing,” Williams said he is baffled that she would make such a statement.
Williams explains that total revenue has actually increased throughout the last few years – $807 million in 2010 to $1 billion in 2012.
And furthermore, tax rates have bounced around between that time at 30 cents per $1,000 to 51 cents per $1,000, he said. But despite it all, “taxes account for 2.5 percent of the budget” and are “sort of irrelevant to the budgeting,” according to Williams.
“You have raised taxes consistently, but the bottom line is the taxes are such a minor part of the whole budget, you aren’t going to get any control out of it,” Williams said, adding he believes the hospital could be self-sustaining without taxes and that the cost of medical care is the issue at hand.
But Hirt said she’ll support quality of care and reduce wasted time and resources in all areas, which “has proven to decrease costs.”
Hirt, who received a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from Ohio State University and an M.B.A. in finance and marketing from the University of Washington, has been endorsed by Rep. Larry Springer and Rep. Roger Goodman.
Williams, who received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Oregon, has been endorsed by the EvergreenHealth board chair Al DeYoung, King County Councilman Rob Dembowski, board member Auggie Kemp, among others.
For more information about the candidates, visitwww.kingcounty.gov/elections/currentelections/201311/candidates.aspx.