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Hospital gives nod to sleep lab

Whidbey Island residents will have a nice quiet place to sleep, but they will have tubes and wires protruding from their bodies.

The Whidbey General Hospital board of directors voted unanimously Monday night to allow the development of a sleep studies center. The center will probably be located at the new Whidbey General North facility in Oak Harbor.

“We feel there’s a need for this service on Whidbey Island,” Whidbey General CEO Scott Rhine said.

Last year, doctors on Whidbey sent approximately 105 people off the island to seek the all-night observation. Some studies have said that at least 10 percent of the general population suffers from a sleep disorder.

Rhine said the center should be open for patients by the beginning of May.

A sleep studies lab allows for patients to be observed in order to look for disorders such as sleep apnea or sleep bruxism, which is a disorder characterized by grinding or clenching of the teeth during sleep.

It will cost approximately $60,000 to start the center. Rhine said he estimates that 20 to 40 people will use the lab each month. If the center performs 20 studies per month, it will create an additional $114,456 in profits for the hospital.

That number climbs to $300,492 if 40 people spend the night each month. According to the project’s proposal, each study would cost approximately $2,000.

The two-room facility would occupy approximately 1,200 square feet at the new facility.

The quest for the sleep center began a little over a year ago at the request of the hospital’s medical staff. Rhine said he contacted Jak Nikomborirak, who is the medical director at the North Olympic Sleep Center, about being the medical director in Oak Harbor.

“He would be one of two who would interpret the study that is done,” Rhine said.

Results from the study would be sent to Nikomborirak for interpretation.

The Oak Harbor lab would have competition as close as Anacortes and Port Townsend, but Rhine said a need still exists.

“I think there is more of these studies being done and people want to go as close to home as possible,” Rhine said.

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