Health Center Response
Beaver Island Rural Health Center Board Response to Joe Moore BIEMS:
The Board of the Beaver Island Rural Health Center deeply regrets the communication failure that led to Joe Moores recent open letter to the Board published in the Forum Section of Beaverislandtour.com. We want the public to know that we acknowledge the fact that we did not keep Beaver Island EMS adequately informed over the summer months about the events which led to our decision not to include an EMS garage in the new medical center facility. That failure was not intentional. It was due to the fact that our all-volunteer board was overwhelmed with work at an extremely active time in the Medical Centers history and that we incorrectly assumed that appropriate communication was happening. Unfortunately, lack of communication can easily be misinterpreted as lack of respect for the individuals or organizations involved. We want to make it absolutely clear that the Rural Health Center Board recognizes that BIEMS is an essential component of health care on Beaver Island. We could not be more respectful of or grateful for the hundreds of lives saved and thousands of hours volunteered on a moments notice by the dedicated members of BIEMS over the sixteen years of its existence.
That being said, we would like to respond to Joes request and explain to BIEMS and the public how the BIRHC Board came to the decision not to include the second ambulance garage in the new facility. As a board we believe that, as difficult as it was to make, this was the right decision under the circumstances. These circumstances were:
1). Financial Constraints. As often happens with any public or private construction project, it became apparent over the summer months that as impressive as the $1.5 million dollar figure we received from the State sounded, it was not going to be enough to fund a building that met all the healthcare needs identified in our December 2001 assessment study. In addition, as we reported in the August 2002 issue of the newspapers, we received news from the State that we could no longer rely on operating grants which in the past had ranged from $75,000-$108,000 per year. This left us with a huge gap in future operating budgets and eliminated the option of tapping our Special Projects fund to boost our construction budget.
2) Long-standing and intense public pressure not to build a facility that we could not afford to operate.
3) Both townships commitment to provide for the building needs of BIEMS at the vacated health center. Before the Board made its decision to eliminate the BIEMS garage, a meeting was held with Don Vyse and John Works Jr. to explain the Boards financial dilemma. At that time both Supervisors indicated that they would allow BIEMS to take over office space in the vacated building and to continue to use the existing ambulance garage. More recently Vyse and Works have agreed to allowing BIEMS to construct an additional garage at the site and to encourage their respective boards to work with the group to find funding for construction.
With other BIEMS needs in mind, the Board and staff of the BIRHC made sure that a separate, private and sheltered EMS entrance, two large exam/observation rooms, wider hallways and a decontamination room were included in the plan for the new center. All of these features will make it easier for EMS personnel to function when patients must be picked up at or taken to the new center for evaluation. Finally, the community education room (with telehealth hook-up) at the new center will be available to BIEMS for continuing education.
In connection with the new medical center building, questions have also been raised about the inclusion of space for a dental practice. At the same meeting with township officials at which space for BIEMS at the old building was discussed, the BIRHC Board requested that the townships also consider letting the dental practice remain there. We were told by the township officials that this would not be possible.
After conferring with Dr. White who told the Board that she could not afford to continue her small practice if she had to pay rent elsewhere, the Board decided to keep a reduced dental space in the new facility. We felt that the health and financial benefits to island residents of having a resident dentist justified the construction and rent subsidy expense. Dr. White will be entirely responsible for equipping her space and is currently in the process of engaging in a written contract with BIRHC which will formalize our relationship. It should be remembered that since dental care was first available on Beaver Island, several decades ago, free rent has always been necessary to entice a dentist to practice here. Further, Dr. White has expressed a willingness to pay rent in the future as her practice grows and she is financially able to do so. Annually, the Board will review with Dr. White her ability to pay rent.
In conclusion, the BIRHC Board acknowledges its special obligation to improve its communication and cooperative relationship with the dedicated and extraordinarily competent members of BIEMS. We want the community to know that we have already taken steps to see that this lack of communication does not happen again. We would, however, encourage members of the public who are interested in the details behind BIRHC Board decisions, to attend monthly meetings which take place on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00 PM at the Beaver Island District Library as well as the special public meetings which have and will continue to occur concerning the new facility. The floor plan, site plan and a computer drawing of the new facility exterior are currently on display at the Beaver Island District Library. The next public meeting with our architects will be at 7:00 on November 20th at Peaine Township Hall.
The Health Center Board
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