Last week, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) agreed to reconsider CHIs’ proposal to relocate 250 hospital beds from Bremerton to Silverdale. A public hearing will take place, the date and location of which are to be decided.

I have spent the weekend reflecting on this news, personally and professionally. CHI’s rebuttal to the reconsideration request was submitted by Thomas Kruse, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for CHI. It focused on whether the individuals requesting reconsideration were actually “affected” persons.

I confess this is my first rodeo. I am neither knowledgeable nor experienced in the Certificate of Need (CON) process. I was not aware that as an “affected” and “interested” person, submission of a request for reconsideration could make a difference. There is an opportunity to be heard in light of granting reconsideration by the State DOH. My passion for this issue was ignited after visiting Harrison Bremerton ER for the first time as a patient recently. The care provided by nurses, physician, and ancillary staff was exemplary. The facility location in Bremerton was convenient and accessible to my residence.

Reconsideration is not in direct opposition to CHI expansion plans; rather, this effort is focused wholly on retaining 85 hospital beds (74 general plus 11 psychiatric) to ease the burden of access to care facing many after the Bremerton facility closes and to ensure Kitsap County residents have choice.

The Bremerton Hospital is ailing and in need of repair; it can be torn down and rebuilt or remodeled and repurposed. If the Bremerton community can regain 85 of the 250 beds conditionally relocated to Silverdale, a small-scale Harrison “Healthplex” could be erected, to include a hospital and primary care clinic.

The City could attract an outside corporation, a teaching institution, or raise capital funds by creation of a hospital district and passing a bond or levy to build a community-owned facility. I do not have all the answers, however, for progress to be made; the City of Bremerton must be able to clarify how residents would substantially benefit from access to emergency and hospital services INSIDE city boundaries.

Many have inquired how to support this effort. Here are my thoughts:

To effectively support the notion we need 85 hospital beds in Bremerton, I propose we present (either verbally or in writing) 85 compelling accounts which best illustrate the reasons access to emergency and hospital services is essential for the health and wellness of city and county residents. 11 of the 85 beds are psychiatric, so I am in search of at least 11 persuasive narratives showing the impact of mental health illness locally.

If you are not comfortable sharing your “story” publicly, I am offering to collect them, removing all identifying information to keep them confidential, and asking volunteers to present them at the hearing on your behalf. I need help editing, compiling, and organization these submissions.

I would like these letters to accurately reflect our community composition, being inclusive of all racial, religious, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds and representative of all cultures, ethnicities, and citizenship statuses. It is my understanding most reconsideration hearings permit submission of written testimony prior to hearing commencement, though am not certain public comment will be allowed. Irrespective to outcome, we should not miss this opportunity to ensure our voices are heard and acknowledged by decision makers at the Department of Health.

Ideally, all submissions should be assembled by August 15, 2017 to ensure readiness when hearing day is announced or arrives. Finally, I encourage all INTERESTED and AFFECTED Kitsap County residents attend the reconsideration hearing in person. Our solidarity may move mountains. We will never know, if we do not try.

Any suggestions, offers of assistance, and additional coordination efforts are welcome. Please know many who are unable to speak for themselves are cheering us on from behind the scenes, crossing their fingers, and holding their breath. If we successfully retain 85 hospital beds, we will have transformed the future of healthcare, for ourselves and other struggling communities across the country. The nation is watching us; let us unite and give this our very best effort.

One Vision. One Voice. Our Choice.