Valley Medical Center board seeks legal review of UW Medicine alliance

A call for a replay of a few legal calls was on the table at the Valley Medical Center Board of Commissioners meeting Monday in Renton.

A call for a replay of a few legal calls was on the table at the Valley Medical Center Board of Commissioners meeting Monday in Renton.

On a split vote the board hired the Tukwila law firm Talmadge-Fitzpatrick to give the board a legal review of the alliance between Valley Medical Center and University of Washington Medicine.

Voting for the resolution were Board President Dr. Paul Joos and commissioners Anthony Hemstad and Dr. Aaron Heide. In dissent were Sue Bowman and Carolyn Parnell.

According to Joos, Phil Talmadge will conduct the review. Talmadge is a former state Supreme Court justice and state senator.

Joos said, “Maybe I missed something, but I didn’t see any review (of the alliance) from the state attorney general or any independent counsel. I think this is a minor expenditure to get us an opinion on what happened last year.”

It is expected to cost the board about $3,000 to $5,000.

Joos said the plan is to keep the review limited to about 10 to 15 hours of Talmadge’s time.

Parnell stated it, “may be a minor expenditure, but is it reasonable?”

The commissioner questioned why the three members did not consider the alliance as legal.

Hemstad stated “it is vitally important going forward this be checked out now.”

Bowman said after working on the alliance over the past year, “We vetted this in the community. We had an advisory group come here. We had people looking at this inside and out. I don’t see the need to do this.”

Joos stated, “I’m a physician and so I’ve been trained to be skeptical and try to figure things out. The UW alliance to me has some really strong points…. I was at meetings where everyone testified and I had to restrain myself from standing up myself and saying, ‘Isn’t this like Jonestown where everyone drank the Kool-Aid?'”

Joos questioned whether the alliance was “ever proposed to go out to the voters of the district to see if this is a good idea? A lot of things in life are sales and there was this big rush to judgement. I would just like to have another opinion.”

University of Washington Medicine and Valley Medical Center (also known as Public Hospital District No. 1) formed an alliance in July 2011.

The board voted 3-2 in July for the alliance. Voting for the alliance were Parnell, Bowman and Don Jacobson. Hemstad and Heide voted against the alliance. Jacobson retired from the board and Joos won the election for his seat in November.

At the close of the Monday meeting Heide stated he agreed the alliance “potentially is a very good thing,” but he believed the process setting up the alliance was rushed. He said the UW Medicine -Valley board of trustees does not have legislative oversight concerning the board of commissioners.

“I don’t want to blow it up (the alliance),” Heide said. “My two children were born here. I have a stake in this institution.”


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