Whidbey General Hospital faced with nearby competition

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

In recent years, nearby hospitals poured tens of millions of dollars into upgrading their 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 included single-patient rooms, which Whidbey officials have incorporated into the hospital’s expansion plans.

Whidbey General Hospital officials said they 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.

The bond, if approved, would cost property owners an estimated 32.2 cents per $1,000 assessed property value over 25 years. It would fund construction of a new wing that includes 39 single-patient rooms, transform the current patient wing into clinic space and provide space for future expansion, as well as a new parking 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 added that the current rooms are extremely cluttered for patients, especially when family visits.

“It can get overstimulating for patients,” Hawkins said.

She added the single rooms would lead to more satisfaction and it would give patients more privacy and a better place to sleep.

Providence’s tower expansion was larger than Whidbey General’s proposed improvements.

The new tower gave 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 includes 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.

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

Providence’s rooms provide better infection control, better noise control and equipment to help hospital staff. Brennan noted that the rooms have lifts built 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 noted the importance of having lifts in rooms. Employees wheel lifts into hospital rooms as needed.

Hawkins said Whidbey General rooms aren’t big enough to accommodate equipment.

The expansion in Everett costed approximately $448 million and was funded by the Providence health system and through public debt.

Island Hospital in Anacortes 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, hospital spokesman Dennis Richards said in an email.

The year 2008 saw the opening of a renovated birth center, lobby and support areas.

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

Island opened a new medical arts pavilion in 2012. It includes a cancer care center and a physical occupational and speech therapy department. The new building cost $10.3 million and was funded by hospital revenues, which was also helped by a tax credit program, Richards said.

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.


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