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Five candidates in the running for two seats on POHD board of trustees

by RACHEL SUN
Staff Writer | May 4, 2021 1:00 AM

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As elections for the Pend Oreille Hospital District board of trustees approach, three challengers are vying for seats against incumbents Helen Parsons and Thomas Lawrence.

Challengers Dolores (Dodie) Glass, Julie Berreth and Jessie Peters all noted concerns including transparency, financial standing and communication.

Dolores (Dodie) Glass

Glass, who holds a master’s degree in nursing, said she aims to create greater transparency if elected.

She added that several board members serve on both the POHD board of trustees and the Bonner General Health board, and said it is important to ensure the tax dollars that support three out of the 13 BGH clinics — including Behavioral Health, Ear, Nose and Throat and the Sandpoint Women's Health — are being well-used.

In addition, Glass noted that she worked as a nurse at Bonner General Health in the hospice program, and said she’s been an active volunteer in the community.

“Quality medical care is my passion,” she said. “I have been to all areas of this community and I feel I understand the medical needs.”

Julie Berreth

Berreth, another one of the challengers, also said transparency is a top priority. She said there is also a need for more “financially viable” as the three BGH clinics that POHD funds.

Coming from a marketing and branding background, Berreth said her previous work gives her experience in identifying and executing long-term visions. Personally, she said, she would like to see a “forward-thinking” approach that encompasses traditional, alternative and complementary forms of health care.

She also believes that creating alternative options could also be a step toward greater financial stability, she said.

“The pandemic has highlighted how the traditional healthcare model has failed to adapt to the changing needs and lifestyles of its patients,” Berreth said. “People have become more thoughtful about what they put into their bodies and are looking for more natural, less invasive forms of healing.”

Thomas Lawrence

Lawrence, an incumbent, has been a family practice provider in Bonner County for over 40 years, and said because of that, he’s deeply familiar with the issues POHD faces.

One of Lawrence’s major goals, he said, is to make the three outpatient clinics POHD is responsible for more financially stable.

“It is the responsibility of the POHD trustees to understand the costs and care requirements of these three outpatient clinics for them to stay viable and continue to enhance and expand services within their scope of practice,” he said. “Although the COVID pandemic was challenging, all three clinics are back serving our community and their patient volumes are increasing.”

He also noted that while POHD runs three clinics, it does not have say over hospital operations.

The board also needs to continue to pursue inpatient to outpatient care transition, he said, for three reasons: technological improvements increasing demand for outpatient care; insurance companies requiring more services to be done on an outpatient basis; and more patients wanting to heal from home.

“I have spent my career committed to providing excellent outpatient care to my patients and their families,” he said. “To ensure good healthcare here in Bonner County it is vital we work together as a community and with our providers to ensure coordination and continuity of care is met for patients.”

Jessie Peters

Another challenger, Jessie Peters, is a nurse practitioner with experience in the nonprofit health care sector.

Peters’ experience includes work in rural health clinics, leadership at health care nonprofits and serving on the Accountable Care Organization board for hospital systems.

Peters said she hopes to clarify the board’s goals, mission, strategy and plan, into a “well-articulated and well-communicated” plan for how tax dollars will positively impact community health and wellness.

“The health care needs of our taxing district need to be assessed in order to ensure that dollars are being spent toward meeting those needs,” she said. “I am not clear from what is publicly available from the hospital district’s board of trustees if, when, and how thoroughly Bonner County’s healthcare needs/disparities have been assessed.”

As with other candidates, Peters said the most pressing issue to her is communication and transparency.

“I have a strong value around patient-centered care,” she said. “I think patients know themselves best, and the healthcare system should educate and support patients, coming alongside them to improve health outcomes.”

Helen Parsons

Parsons, a Sandpoint native and the second incumbent on the ballot, has 28 years experience working at Sandpoint Women’s Health. That experience, she said, gives her the necessary experience for the position.

That experience also makes her passionate about keeping quality local health care, she said. One goal for Parsons is to oversee increased access to behavioral health services in the community.

“I believe that the board’s current operations of supporting outpatient clinics is vital,” Parsons said. “The Behavioral Health, Sandpoint Women’s Health and Ear Nose and Throat clinics are all needed in this community.”

Moving forward, Parsons said one of the most important issues to her is finding unity amongst the board.

“My goal is to find common ground, where we can progress forward despite our differences,” she said.

Providing quality health care and caring for others is vital, Parsons said.

“I am dedicated to this cause and this community,” she said. “I will not be going anywhere, and I will continue to fight to keep healthcare top of mind in our ever-growing community.”

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Helen Parsons

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Jessie Peters

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Thomas Lawrence

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Julie Berreth