Opinion

Mary Alice Heuschel would provide focused leadership on Valley Med board | Renton Reporter endorsement

Today, the Renton Reporter concludes its series of endorsement editorials in three City Council races and the race for a sole position on the Public Hospital District Board of Commissioners. The endorsements are made by our Editorial Board, comprised of Publisher Ellen Morrison, Editor Dean A. Radford and community members Jim Medzegian, Armondo Pavone and Pat Auten. The candidates in each race were interviewed, then the board deliberated before voting.

The Renton Reporter endorses Mary Alice Heuschel in her race for an open seat on the Public Hospital District No. 1 Board of Commissioners.

For the past several months, Heuschel has schooled herself in the operations and finances of Valley Medical Center, the main asset of the hospital district. She served on the medical center’s President’s Advisory Council that gave the community a chance to weigh in on the hospital’s future; its work helped shape the new strategic alliance between Valley Medical and UW Medicine.

As the superintendent of the Renton School District, Heuschel has had to manage a complicated public institution with a budget that’s under stress because of the sour economy and other forces by doing more with less. Valley Medical Center could use those talents.

Heuschel has done her homework. She’s ready to take on the dual roles of an elected commissioner – overseeing the assets and tax dollars of the hospital district AND providing community-based leadership as one of 13 trustees overseeing Valley’s medical operations and budget.

She has the time and the desire to serve. She knows how to steward tax dollars.

This is the first board election since the creation of the strategic alliance. It’s important to understand the distinction between the responsibilities of each role. Heuschel’s opponent, Dr. Paul Joos, would have definite strengths as a trustee, but worrisome is that he admits he hasn’t closely studied the details of the alliance.

One of Joos’  Top 10 priorities as a commissioner is to see Valley Medical Center CEO Rich Roodman removed from his job. Certainly, Roodman is controversial and he is well-paid – a salary that he has earned. But Roodman’s fate is no longer up to the elected commission, it’s up to the 13 trustees.

Roodman is one of the key architects of the alliance, which Heuschel and Joos both support, and he needs to remain as its CEO to see it through the next two or three years. Joos (and any other commissioner or commissioners) is certainly free to advocate Roodman’s dismissal, but any ongoing undermining of Roodman’s position would detract from the important work of the alliance trustees. It’s clear the chair of the trustee board isn’t interested in going down that path.

We want commissioners who are focused on patient care and safety, not on the next “gotcha” just to make a political point or to carry out an agenda. There’s no doubt that Joos is all about patient care and safety. But Heuschel is better equipped to focus on making the strategic alliance work and prosper financially and medically.

We’ll hold Joos to his word that if he is elected he would recuse himself from an elected board or alliance trustee decision that might affect his Valley Eye and Laser Clinic at the privately owned Talbot Hill Professional Building. We’ve already seen the conflictions that commission member Dr. Aaron Heide faces as stroke center director of the Auburn Regional Medical Center, one of Valley’s competitors.

We’ll flat out say that it’s good the medical and operational sides of the hospital are now overseen by 13 broadly based trustees who will bring much-needed professionalism to Valley oversight. If there is a new majority on the elected commission, we hope it will work to keep its hospital, Valley Medical, strong in a very competitive health-care market.

It’s time to let go of the past.

 

The Renton Reporter endorsements

Hospital District No. 1

Commissioner District 1

• Mary Alice Heuschel

Renton City Council

Position 4

Greg Taylor

Position 5

Robin Jones

Position 7

Don Persson

 

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