Navy Hospital ER’s future questioned

An email from a doctor at Naval Hospital Oak Harbor has officials scrambling to quell rumors that the emergency room is closing.

Whether it actually is closing might depend on what the definition of “ER” is.

Speculation that the emergency services department at Naval Hospital Oak Harbor will be closed is either misinformation or a misunderstanding, according to the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Public Affairs Office.

An email from Dr. Grant Schmidt, an emergency room doctor on the base, to State Rep. Barbara Bailey recently circulated, saying that the emergency room would “cease to exist as of October 1.”

Kim Martin, public affairs officer, said a proposal has been made locally to rename and restructure the services. She said the ER isn’t going to be closed, just changed to an “urgent care” clinic. She added that the Oct. 1 date is correct if the changes are implemented.

Schmidt paints a bleaker picture. With proposed shorter hours as an urgent care facility, the ER physician said it is not implausible for someone critical to show up at midnight and find the doors locked.

“Someone’s going to die,” he said. “It’s going to be a mess. The disservice is that the public hasn’t been notified.”

Schmidt has been able to candidly vocalize his concerns. After all, he will be moving on.

“I can’t work here because I’m an ER physician,” he said. “They’re going to have to fill the positions with whoever.”

Bailey had only just read the email Tuesday afternoon and had not yet spoken with Capt. Colin Chinn, Commanding Officer of the Naval Hospital.

“I just can’t imagine they would close the ER,” an optimistic Bailey said. “I think they’re trying to be more efficient and they’re helping people find out what they have to offer there.”

A Whidbey Island resident, Schmidt appealed to the state representative for help via the email.

“I beg of you on behalf of all our active and retired service members, do not allow this closure to take place,” he wrote. “One day here without an ER could be a death sentence for someone’s loved one.”

Scott Rhine, Whidbey General Hospital chief executive officer, recently had correspondence with Chinn, who reportedly confirmed the change in name only.

“This will be similar in scope to what they’re doing now,” Rhine said. “The focus will be on urgent care walk-in service.”

Schmidt also wrote in the email that ambulances will no longer be accepted.

Roger Meyers, Whidbey General Hospital EMS manager, had not received confirmation of the proposal.

“I don’t know what kind of impact that’s going to have on us,” he said. “When we get a patient in the military, we call NAS. Sometimes they say come on in and sometimes they say take them elsewhere.”

For military patients in the civilian community, Meyers and his crew are already taking the calls.

“Out in the civilian population, it’s all us,” he said.

Martin said, depending on the gear needed for an emergency, ambulances generally do not go to the Naval Hospital.

The Naval Hospital ER is currently open 24 hours a day. Rhine said he was told by Chinn that the hours could be shortened to have the facility serve patients from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“But I haven’t seen that in writing,” the CEO said.

The Navy will host the media next week to lay out the proposed services and recommendations and perhaps clear up the confusion and defuse contentiousness.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 26
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates