Commissioners consider Whidbey General Hospital bond

Whidbey General Hospital Commissioner Ron Wallin pressed fellow board members to consider going to taxpayers for a bond issue to finance a new hospital wing.

“We’re at a point where we really, really need to move forward on this,” he said at Monday night’s board meeting.

The board unsuccessfully tackled the need for a new medical-surgical wing just before Scott Rhine resigned as CEO two years ago. Tom Tomasino has since taken over as head of the hospital.

What Wallin described as poor public perception of the administration and the hospital’s services has plagued the hospital in recent years, but the new administration is betting on a revamped set of goals to turn the public hospital district around.

However, the goals can’t be met if the facility is imperfect, said Wallin, a member of the board’s building committee.

“We put this off for a long time,” he said. “The issues we have at this facility aren’t going to be resolved easily.”

Wallin suggested the board discuss the bond in depth at its next meeting, scheduled for June 14.

The building committee consulted with an engineer who suggested the hospital take one of three avenues: emodel the current wing, demolish the medical-surgical wing and rebuild it from the ground-up, or build an entirely new wing on the south side of the hospital, Wallin said.

Commissioner Dr. Paul Zaveruha cautioned the board against “numerous obstacles” including the current economy and health care reform, although he supports the need for a new “med-surg” wing.

“The devil is in the details,” he said. “There’s no doubt the goal is the right goal.”

The current med-surg wing, built in 1969, contains rooms that hold two patients each, said hospital spokesperson Trish Rose.

“In the 40 years since the wing was built there’s been a change in the standard of care,” she said.

Today’s standards call for one patient to a room, which is proven to decrease infections and increase confidentiality.

There’s no current cost estimate, Rose said. The last time the issue was examined, the cost hovered around $50 million. The hospital passed its last bond in 2001 in the amount of $5 million to renovate the outpatient lobby.

The cost, location and construction schedule are all yet to be determined, said Wallin, who added that the details will be sorted out during information-gathering meetings with the medical staff, the medical executive committee and the community.

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