Bond would bring needed space

Whidbey General Hospital CNA Brianna Wells  and nurse Mary Hunter maneuvers an Ergo Nurse into a patient room. The Ergo Nurse barely fits through the door and is used to help move patients who are either too large to move or unable to move. - Nathan Whalen photo
Whidbey General Hospital CNA Brianna Wells and nurse Mary Hunter maneuvers an Ergo Nurse into a patient room. The Ergo Nurse barely fits through the door and is used to help move patients who are either too large to move or unable to move.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen photo

In terms of facilities, Whidbey General Hospital is facing stiff competition from its neighbors.

Neighboring hospitals in recent years have poured tens of millions of dollars into upgrading its facilities.

Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett almost two years ago opened a 700,000-square-foot addition at its Colby Campus while Island Hospital in Anacortes completed upgrades in 2007 and 2012. Those expansions include features such as single-patient rooms, which Whidbey officials are incorporating into the hospital’s expansion plans.

Whidbey General Hospital officials hope the Coupeville-based campus will be the latest medical facility to upgrade if voters approve a $50-million bond measure next month. That ballot proposal needs to pass by a 60 percent supermajority.

If approved, the bond, which would be paid off in 25 years and cost property owners an estimated 32.2 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, would fund construction of a new wing that includes 39 single-patient rooms, transform the current patient wing into clinic space, provide space for future expansion and construct a new parking lot because the new wing would be built atop a current lot.

“I think it would make a big difference for the patient experience,” said Belinda Hawkins, who has been a nurse at Whidbey General Hospital for 30 years. She said the biggest complaint patients have about their stay at Whidbey General is having a second person in the room and having to be moved from room to room.

She said that the current rooms are extremely cluttered for patients, especially when family visits.

“It can get overstimulating for patients,” Hawkins said. She added that the single rooms would lead to more satisfaction and give patients more privacy and a better place to sleep.

Providence’s tower expansion was larger than Whidbey General’s plans.

The new tower gives the facility 491 beds between its two Everett campuses located on Colby and Pacific avenues. It also has room to add an additional 112 rooms, but Providence would have to get state approval through the Certificate of Need before that could happen, Providence spokeswoman Cheri Russum said in an email.

Tom Brennan, chief strategy officer for Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, said the tower was built for a 50-year life span.

The new tower included mostly private rooms and some semi-private rooms. While the older buildings do have double rooms, Brennan said staff works to keep one patient per room as possible.

“Patients would prefer a private room,” Brennan said. He noted that there is room for families to have room to visit their loved ones too.

“We want to make sure the family feels comfortable,” Brennan said.

Providence’s rooms provide better infection control, better noise control and equipment to help hospital staff. Brennan noted that the rooms have lifts in them to help move patients. Even a patient that weighs 150 pounds can cause an injury if an employee attempts to lift them.

Whidbey General Hospital officials have noted the importance of having lifts in rooms. Current employees have wheel lifts into hospital rooms. Hawkins said the current rooms aren’t big enough to accommodate equipment.

Providence’s new tower also improved technology, gave doctors larger operating rooms, and allowed for the transition to a level II trauma center. The expansion in Everett cost approximately $448 million and was funded by the Providence health system and through public debt.

Anacortes’ Island Hospital opened a 70,000-square-foot building containing a full-service lab, diagnostic imaging, emergency care center and a floor dedicated to acute care and intensive care nursing that featured private rooms, Island Hospital spokesman Dennis Richards said in an email. 2008 saw the opening of renovated birth center, lobby and support areas.

Island Hospital’s expansion was funded by a $30.5 million general obligation bond that voters passed with a 79 percent majority.

Island opened a new medical arts pavilion in 2012 that included a cancer care center and a physical occupational and speech therapy department. The new building cost $10.3 million and was paid with hospital revenues, which was also helped by a New Markets Tax Credit program, Richards said in the email.

Whidbey General Hospital Board President Anne Tarrant said the hospital’s proposed expansion will help level the playing field between the Coupeville-based hospital and neighboring hospitals.

She said the single-patient rooms will provide better privacy, will be safer for employees and provide better infection control.

Voters will decide on the hospital’s future during the November general election, which marks the second time hospital leaders will send the proposal to the voters. Two years ago, 55.49 percent of the voters approved the bond, which was short of the 60 percent supermajority needed for approval.

Tarrant said the current and previous proposals are identical. She said the expansion will meet the hospital’s current and future needs.

“We just want to take care of our patients and not fight an antiquated facility,” Hawkins added.


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