Voters poised to decide on Whidbey General Hospital bond

Voters will soon decide whether a modernization of Whidbey General Hospital becomes a reality.

The Island County Auditor’s office is in the process of mailing out ballots to more than 36,000 voters who will decide whether to approve a $50-million bond that will pay for construction of a new wing at the island’s publicly owned hospital in Coupeville.

Deputy Auditor Michele Reagan said the elections office mailed out nearly 2,300 ballots to military personnel last week and she hopes the remaining 34,000 ballots will be postmarked by Wednesday or Thursday.

Voters will have until May 17 to return their ballot for the hospital bond, which has to pass by a minimum 60 percent margin for approval.

If the ballot measure passes, property owners would pay an estimated 34 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. This is in addition to the 9 cents per $1,000 property owners currently pay for the hospital’s maintenance and operations levy. A separate levy supports Emergency Services.

The new bond would cost the owner of an average home on Whidbey, valued at $252,000, $108 a year. The bonds would be paid off in 26 years. When the interest is calculated property owners would pay approximately $104 million over the life of the bonds.

Hospital officials want the $50 million to build a new wing on the south side of the hospital’s Coupeville campus. That building would house 39 single-patient rooms which would basically replace the current 34 beds housed in double rooms. That space would be converted to doctor offices and other uses.

Leaders argue that private rooms have become the standard of care as hospitals modernize. Single rooms provide enough room for lengthy family visits as well as space for medical professionals and modern equipment. The staff hopes the private rooms will help better control the spread of infections and better meet federal privacy regulations.

Several neighboring hospitals have spent millions of dollars in upgrading facilities. Island Hospital in Anacortes and Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon completed upgrades that included the installation of private rooms while Providence Everett Regional Medical Center has an extensive expansion scheduled to open in June.

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