Hospital district appeals decision on alliance to state High Court


Public Hospital District No. 1 will appeal to the Washington Supreme Court a decision by a King County Superior Court judge dismissing its challenge of the strategic alliance with UW Medicine.

The vote at Monday's hospital district commission was 3-2, with Dr. Paul Joos, Anthony Hemstad and Dr. Aaron Heide voting for an appeal, and Sue Bowman and Carolyn Parnell against it.

Joos said after the meeting the appeal would go to the Supreme Court in the next few weeks. He indicated that Phil Talmadge, a former state Supreme Court justice who argued the case before county Judge Michael Hayden, would file and then argue the appeal, along with the hospital district's attorney, Bruce Disend.

In 2011, the hospital commission voted 3-2 to approve the strategic alliance with UW Medicine, which is designed to improve and expand medical care in South King County. However, that majority changed with the election of Joos to the commission.

Joos, Hemstad and Heide argue that the commission in 2011 overstepped its legal authority to enter into the agreement.

The alliance's implementation is continuing.

Commissioners debated the resolution for several minutes, with Parnell asking why the lawsuit or the appeal was necessary. Joos said he's explained many times why the challenge was need; those reasons are spelled out in the resolution.

Heide said the challenge was no so much about the alliance, but the precedent that was being set regarding delegating powers.

Lisa Jensen, who chairs the strategic alliance's 13-member Board of Trustees, said after the meeting she was disappointed with the commission's decision because the lawsuit is a distraction for some. She attended the commission meeting as an observer.

She pointed out the district commissioners do have a voice on the trustee board.

"I was hoping we could move forward working together. We will attempt to do that still," she said.

Trustees have asked for information about the costs related to the legal action.

"This is a challenging budget year for Valley," she said. "Those costs are coming out of operations."

By the same vote margin, the commission also decided to hire a lobbyist to make its case for changes to the structure of hospital districts.

Right now, there are three geographically defined commissioner districts and two at-large districts in Public Hospital District No. 1. The commission wants all five commissioner districts to represent a specific geographic area, which would require a change in state law.

The resolution points out the lobbyist is needed to help protect the public's interest.

State Sen. Margarita Prentice, who is retiring from the Legislature, told commissioners during public comment that the hospital district should not hire a lobbyist because challenging the alliance "is not working on behalf of the community."

In a final action, the commissioners elected officers. Joos will remain as board president and Hemstad will serve as vice president and Heide as board secretary.

Parnell and Heide had each nominated the other for an officer position but didn't receive the necessary votes.

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