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Kittitas Hospital District 1 Commissioner 5

No Salary, some districts offer a small reimbursement for the expenses associated with evening meetings. Public Hospital District commissioners are responsible for the policies and quality of care provided at public hospitals throughout the service area. The commission sets the general policies of the district, which are implemented by the hired professional district administrator and hospital medical staff and personnel.

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    Matthew Altman

  • James Choe

Biographical Information

What is your record of public service?

What is the top issue for your Hospital District?

How would you address it?

What experience have you had with medical budgeting and administration?

What responsibility do you think the Hospital District should have for indigent care?

What should your district do to address the revenue shortfalls resulting from the COVID-19 crisis?

What should your district do to prepare for a return of COVID-19 or any future pandemic?

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Town where you live Ellensburg, WA
Experience (300 characters max) Board of Commissioners, Hospital District 1 (2015-present); American Hospital Association Committee on Governance (2020-present); Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) Regional Clinical Triage Team for Eastern Washington (2020-present); Ethics Committee, Kittitas Valley Healthcare (2007­-2015)
I have been a member of the Board for six years, since being elected in 2015. I have served as Vice President (2016-2017), President (2018-2019), and Secretary (2020-present) of the Board, as well as chairing the Quality Improvement Council since 2016. In 2020, I was appointed to a three-year term on the American Hospital Association’s Committee on Governance, where I represent the needs of rural healthcare and advise the AHA on their national legislative agenda. Since early 2020, I have also been a member of the Regional Clinical Triage Team for Eastern Washington, which advises hospitals on how to negotiate patient demands during the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to serving on the Board, I was a member of the Ethics Committee at KVH from 2007 to 2015.
How to respond to the coronavirus pandemic is, of course, a top issue for all hospitals. Apart from that, there is the challenge of remaining an independent, community healthcare system in a rural area like Kittitas County. Since 2005, 181 rural hospitals in the U.S. have closed or been acquired by larger systems, becoming little more than waystations for patients to be immediately transferred to the nearest big city so that they can get less personalized care at a place owned by the parent company. If we want high-quality care provided locally and in a way that serves the specific needs that we have as a community, we need to maintain our independence.
We will remain stable and financially viable by continuing the strategy we have pursued in recent years: by expanding the services we offer to meet the needs of the community. We have kept care local by adding many new providers and services, including cardiology, neurology, vascular surgery, pediatrics, ENT, a 24-hour outpatient pharmacy, Workplace Health, wound care, dermatology, expanded physical therapy, integrated behavioral health, and digital mammography. Not only does this sustain your local healthcare system and help you avoid long trips out of town, but it also supports your friends and neighbors who work at KVH.
The Board provides governance oversight and leaves day-to-day administration to the CEO and the rest of the senior leadership team. One of the Board’s most important tasks is to oversee the district’s budget, and in that capacity, I and the other Board members review monthly financial reports with the Chief Financial Officer; approve or deny major funding requests, including proposed new service lines; and examine the annual budget. Because any hospital’s financial well-being is deeply affected by government funding and regulations, my work with the American Hospital Association also gives me a broader perspective on the state and federal policies that impact KVH’s finances.
KVH is legally required to treat patients who come to the emergency room, regardless of ability to pay. When medical care imposes a financial burden on patients, fiscal specialists work with them to access available healthcare options, including public programs, and to work out a manageable schedule for payment. KVH is committed to helping all members of the community.
In addition to securing federal funding through the CARES Act, KVH is remaining financially stable because it has expanded services that are in demand. Early in the pandemic, some KVH employees took voluntary leave to reduce payroll expenses, which helped the organization tremendously. We have not had to repeat that since then, not only because there is such a need for staff during the pandemic, but because KVH has effectively managed its finances. I don’t expect that the district will have to take any other special measures to address revenue shortfalls.
During this pandemic, we rediscovered something that we already knew: we can’t do it alone. The distribution of COVID vaccines in Kittitas County has been so efficient and successful because it has been overseen by the Kittitas County Incident Management Team, with members from the Public Health Department, Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office, Kittitas Valley Fire & Rescue, KVH, and many others. If we face another pandemic challenge in the future, the processes, supply chains, and community partnerships are in place. Keeping fully staffed is always a challenge for a rural hospital like KVH. Luckily, KVH has a hardworking HR department, including a physician recruiter, who are constantly looking to staff needed positions. Together, we’ll provide the people of Kittitas County with the care they deserve – under any circumstances.
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