Legality of strategic alliance needs clarity | Commentary

Following are the remarks that Dr. Paul Joos, president of the Public Hospital District No. 1 Board of Commissioners, made to Tuesday’s meetings of the commission and the Board of Trustees of Valley Medical Center.

I would like to share with the public (in his statement to the trustees he referred to them) the commission’s rationale for Resolution 984 directing Phil Talmadge to review the UW Medicine-Valley Medical Strategic Alliance because I believe too many people are prematurely jumping to conclusions.

First I want to make clear our primary goal is to do what is right for our patients and the residents of King County Public Hospital #1. I also believe a partnership with UW Medicine can benefit both parties if it is truly a partnership.

Many people the community are concerned the legal analysis provided for this Alliance was not truly independent nor rigorous and may not have been in the best interests of the residents of the hospital district or our patients.

All five of the elected commissioners took a sworn oath of office to obey the law and we therefore have a sworn obligation to obtain legal opinion from an experienced, qualified and independent attorney. As elected officials we are obligated to determine if the commissioners had the authority to legally delegate its statutory responsibilities to a majority of an unelected board created by contract.

The voters of our King County Hospital District have clearly spoken in the last three elections. Three commissioners have been defeated, and a fourth,  who would have most likely been defeated, chose not to run for re-election. The reason for the voter’s dissatisfaction is primarily the behavior of some of the hospital’s administrators, and the exorbitant salaries and administrative overhead. Many people in the community believe the board structure negotiated by Valley’s administrators was designed to protect their own personal interests and thwart the will of the people who pay taxes to operate the hospital.

We believe it is important this Alliance start out on a sound legal footing and that is why we have requested this independent legal analysis. If we are on a sound legal footing we can proceed as planned.

However, if we are not on a strong and legally defensible foundation it is critical we all work together to modify the agreement to comply with the law and benefit our patients.

We believe we should do it right from the beginning because to do otherwise would be reckless. We certainly do not want to be in the situation where the Alliance unravels sometime down the road, after a successful citizen lawsuit results in the board being restructured by a judge.


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