Vote ensures healthcare progress will continue

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The healthcare providers of Bonner County, and most especially Bonner General Health, sincerely thank the voters of the Pend Oreille Hospital District for re-electing Dr. Scott Burgstahler to the POHD Board of Directors. Dr. Burgstahler’s overwhelming victory demonstrates that POHD voters are not buying any of the nonsensical and false attacks on the POHD and BGH that have been propagated by followers of Sandpoint Redoubt.

For the past 10 years, I have had the honor of serving as chair of the BGH Board of Directors, succeeding the 40 successive years of leadership of beloved community gem, Jack Parker. Although I do not live in the Pend Oreille Hospital District, I am familiar with all aspects of POHD’s important and necessary support of full-service healthcare in Bonner County.

POHD was formed in 1969 by community members who understood we had to build a new hospital in Bonner County, to replace the endearing, yet outdated, pre-fab that had been towed up the lake from Farragut and served in the 1960’s as the first, modern, full-service hospital in Bonner County. After the Pend Oreille Hospital District was formed, BGH was able to fund the construction of the original hospital building from federal Hill Burton funds, so no bond issue or levy was necessary in the hospital district.

From its formation forward, Pend Oreille Hospital District had done nothing other than to provide hospital services to Bonner County. While BGH built and operated the original hospital and the successive additions and improvements, POHD has been funding operations and maintenance of the hospital, and nearly 50 years of clean, unqualified audits bear this out. Last year, based upon complaints by a member of the POHD Board of Directors, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office suggested that POHD should own hospital assets. POHD promptly responded and worked with BGH to create a new agreement, under which POHD owns three of the vital clinics serving Bonner County and the region, and that arrangement is now fully underway and operational. As previously reported here, the Attorney General has fully endorsed this arrangement.

BGH is a not-for-profit Idaho corporation that is governed by a board of directors of local residents of Bonner County, most of whom, like Dr. Burgstahler, are elected members of the POHD Board as well. The clean audits of POHD and the full non-profit tax returns of BGH are publicly available and have been provided for informational purposes for the last three months to the Bonner County Commissioners, the Clerk, the Prosecutor, and all of our state legislators. These audits and returns show nothing other than sound financial management and continual reinvestment in providing the best healthcare and hospital services possible for the community.

BGH and POHD together provide facilities and services yearly for over 5,000 inpatients, over 3,000 surgeries, and over 80,000 procedures for nearly 70,000 outpatients. Our emergency room last year saw over 10,000 visits. Working together as our senior medical professionals retire, we have been able to recruit superb physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals, many of whom take substantial reductions in compensation to be able to work in a truly community facility in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The collegiality of a small community healthcare center, combined with our wonderful location, serve as our best recruiting tools. Meanwhile, our veteran employees continue to provide wonderful care while receiving pins for 25, 30, 40 and 45 years of service.

In the meantime, we continue to increase the health care options available to the community with new clinics and services. Our stroke team receives kudos from peer groups around the region. We are rebuilding infrastructure in the hospital, adding new air handling equipment and replacing the emergency generator to further guarantee service if disaster strikes.

BGH and POHD have created the health care hub for our region, and will continue to broaden and improve healthcare options for all of our friends and neighbors. We are joined in this effort with the critical support and input from the Bonner General Foundation, as well as our 126 BGH volunteers, who provide nearly 10,000 hours of service every year of “priceless assistance” to our patients and medical professionals. We always welcome community input, and again, BGH extends its thank you to the voters of POHD for ensuring that this progress will continue.

FORD ELSAESSER

Sandpoint

Bonner General Health Board of Directors

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