The Hospital District Board will not ask the Attorney General's office for an opinion on the Constitutional issues raised by the ACLU concerning the use of public tax monies for the newly opened local hospital. Board Chair Lenore Bayuk said the district may ask for an AG opinion later.
In the meantime the likelihood of a lawsuit being filed increases. There is no expense to the district for the AG opinion. The hospital district is responsible for any legal fees or expenses related to lawsuits filed against the district.
The hospital district's 50-year-contract with Peace Health, the not-for-profit Catholic medical system that owns and operates PIMC, turns over almost all of the local hospital district tax levy to Peace Health.
The levy amounts to approximately $1.4 million a year, dropping down to $1.15 in 2015 when a levy lid lift expires. The tax money is to be used to cover the cost of PIMC's 24/7 services (emergent care) and to provide services for those who can't afford care.
The ACLU letter states: "By providing an annual subsidy to Peace Health, the Hospital District is impermissibly supporting the religious restrictions on reproductive and end-of-life health services."
Concerns are also raised about the gift of public funds: "The Hospital District should also consider its obligations under Article VIII, Section 7 of the Washington Constitution which prohibits state funds from being used to benefit private interests when the public interest is not primarily served. The subsidy amounts to an unconstitutional gift of taxpayer money to Peace Health for its benefit."
The hospital district sent a letter to the ACLU last week.
The hospital district board required San Juan Islander Editor Sharon Kivisto to file a Public Records request in order to obtain a copy. The text of the letter will be posted once it is received.