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Hospital to purchase Langley Clinic

Reacting to concerns about primary health care access on South Whidbey Island, Whidbey General Hospital’s board decided to buy a Langley doctor’s office and will look at continuing to staff the clinic.

The Whidbey General Hospital Board approved purchasing the records and equipment of the Langley Clinic during its Monday evening meeting. The hospital is paying $13,650 for the records and $10,255 for the equipment.

South Whidbey residents were shocked last month when they learned the doctor who runs the clinic, Stan Whittemore, was closing his practice Oct. 31 without anyone identified to replace him. He said he plans to retire.

The potential loss of the clinic has some people concerned that it will limit health care opportunities on the south end of the island and cause people to look elsewhere for their health care.

“For every day that the clinic is dark, patients will be lost to the mainland and anger will grow,” said Steve Shapiro during the meeting. He and Doug Allderdice own the building where the Langley Clinic operates.

Langley Mayor Paul Samuelson also attended the meeting and said the town is working to make sure the clinic’s closing doesn’t take place.

Shapiro advocated the hospital district taking over the clinic. If it closes, he argued that it would be too difficult for someone new to start a practice in the area; the loss of the clinic would deteriorate primary care service in the area; and it would be difficult for elderly and low-income residents to find a reasonable alternative.

The city of Langley and an ad-hoc committee will work with the hospital to build the practice and recruit a primary care physician. Shapiro suggested that the residents of South Whidbey could contribute financially through the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation.

“What we have here is a sour lemon. Let’s assemble the other ingredients and make tasty lemonade,” Shapiro said. A physician, Shapiro operated the Langley Clinic himself years ago.

Hospital board members seemed willing to support efforts to continue a primary care practice in Langley.

“We will do whatever we can to salvage and keep that clinic open,” board member Roger Case said.

Board member Ron Wallin said the board found out the clinic was closing about the same time the community did.

There are several other steps that have to take place before the transfer is complete. The hospital district has to negotiate a new lease and then find a way to staff the clinic. There is a licensed nurse practitioner already working at the clinic. Hospital CEO Scott Rhine said additional help is needed until a physician is found, and that could be in the form of a physician’s assistant or another nurse practitioner.

While the hospital is purchasing the Langley Clinic, it will probably still be tied in with South Whidbey Healthcare in Freeland, Rhine said.

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