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Whidbey General Hospital to try again in February

Hospital leaders hope the second time is the charm.

Whidbey General Hospital commissioners Monday evening approved a Feb. 14, 2012, date to send another bond proposal to voters for the same $50 million previously rejected. Proceeds would fund expansion of the hospital’s Coupeville campus.

Hospital officials will use the bond proceeds to pay for construction of a new wing at Whidbey General Hospital consisting of 39 single-patient rooms along with space to expand existing hospital programs. That bond needs a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

Two dates had been considered for the bond election — November or February.

Board president Anne Tarrant said, after talking with people in the community, the February date was preferable because the bond won’t be competing with other measures that typically make up the November general election ballot. There were concerns the hospital’s message would be lost during a busy election season. In addition, the advocates want more time to educate voters so the bond will have a better chance of passing.

During the special election held May 17, 55.49 percent of the voters supported the bond. While it was a solid majority, it fell short of the 60 percent mark required for approval.

“We’re going to try to control our message a bit more,” Tarrant said, citing newspaper coverage as a factor in the recent failure.

She said many critics got hung up on the single patient rooms, thinking such an addition was more of a luxury than a necessity. However, she said single patient rooms have become the standard in hospital construction.

Recent expansions at hospitals surrounding Whidbey Island seem to bear out Tarrant’s thoughts.

Renovation projects recently have taken place at Providence Everett Regional Medical Center, Island Hospital in Anacortes and Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon. All three of those hospitals included single-patient rooms as part of the expansion.

If the bond proposal passes in February, a homeowner would pay an estimated 34 cents per $1,000 assessed value for 26 years. The bond would cost the owner of an average home appraised at $252,000 about $108 annually. When the interest is calculated, property owners would eventually pay approximately $104 million for the project.

Commissioner Ron Wallin added that renovating the existing building would mean tearing it to the ground and then rebuilding it.

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