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Ozuna, Aguilar to help decide how more than $6.5 million will be spent on local health care issues

A 15-member board has been selected to help manage more than $6.5 million that will be used to provide health care and other services to the people of the Yakima Valley. Of those 15, two members of the Yakima Valley Community Foundation are from the Lower Valley.

Bengie Aguilar and Robert Ozuna, both residents of the Lower Valley, were two of the first 10 people appointed to be on the board.

Ozuna, who works for the University of Washington at Heritage College, and Aguilar, who works in the Washington State Migrant Student Data and Recruitment Office of the Sunnyside School District, said they are excited to be a part of the foundation during its inception.

"It's exciting to set up all these directions," Ozuna said.

The board of the new Yakima Valley Community Foundation will help manage $6.5 million from the Providence Health Foundation, $1 million a year for the next 10 years from Health Management Associates and all profits Providence realizes from the sale of its two Yakima Valley hospitals. The board will also have the authority to seek out other funding sources to help support charitable health work in the Yakima Valley.

"This is really an incredible board," said Mike Richardson, one of the new board members and former president of the Providence Health Foundation. "Every one of the members has an outstanding record of service to the poor and under-served."

Both Aguilar and Ozuna were chosen to serve as members of the foundation's board through an intense selection process. Aguilar said she had to submit a resume, as well as fill out a detailed application. From there she was selected by the Community Advisory Committee to serve as a member of the board.

Aguilar said she felt serving as a member of the board would be a good opportunity to ensure that the foundation's resources are spent on health care needs throughout the Valley.

"I really thought it was a great opportunity for me to provide some input on our situation in the Lower Valley," Aguilar said.

Ozuna said he also wanted to be a part of the board to ensure that the health needs of the Valley are met.

Aguilar said being a member of the board she is looking forward to tackling a couple of issues that are important to her, including providing more resources for Sunnyside Community Hospital's nurse education program, as well as ensuring that health care needs of the Hispanic population are addressed, including heath problems such as diabetes, heart disease and nutrition.

Aguilar said she knows that over the years the local hospital has been faced with a nurse shortage and has gone as far as to hire nurses from out of the country to work in Sunnyside. She said she is also aware of an educational program the hospital has that encourages people to look to nursing as a possible profession.

Ozuna said he is going into the process with an open mind, and is really excited to see the entire 15-member board come together for the first time during its February meeting.

The foundation and its board were developed under a law written by Sen. Alex Deccio, R-Yakima. The law regulates the sale of non-profit hospitals to for-profit companies and outlines the roles of state agencies in the process, including those of the Attorney General's office and the state Department of Health. The Providence/Health Management Associates transition is the first time the law has been used.

The Attorney General had the lead in approving the foundation, including the plan for creating the foundation board. The plan was developed with input from more than 24 community members and groups in the Yakima Valley.

. Elena Olmstead can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail her at eolmstead@eaglenewspapers.com

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