Sound Off: Aging hospital needs modern rooms, technology

By Robert Zylstra

It’s time to renew our five-decade investment in Whidbey General Hospital. The vote for a new inpatient wing for our community’s hospital is more than a referendum on a construction bond. It is a defining, transcendent moment for the community of Whidbey Island.

Built over 40 years ago, the current inpatient wing’s infrastructure limitations make it impossible to integrate modern medical technology into the rooms. More importantly, the double occupancy design of the current wing is no longer the standard for modern medical care. In the simplest terms, WGH’s current inpatient facilities will soon not be able to meet modern standards for quality inpatient care. The private room, once considered a luxury for the privileged few, has been proven in study after study to:

• Ensure faster patient recovery times.

• Reduce infection rates.

• Decrease medication errors.

• Enhance compliance with privacy regulations.

• Increase patient and family comfort.

• Provide for safer patient handling.

For these reasons, single-patient rooms are now the standard for our nation’s hospitals and the legal standard for new medical construction. Six other important reasons to support the bond to build a modern inpatient facility are:

1. It will ensure that Whidbey Islanders can receive modern health care close to home when they need it.

2. It assures that patients’ families and their support network can be there for them when they are in the hospital without long travel times and travel costs.

3. It will help WGH attract and retain great doctors and nurses for our community.

4. It will preserve the hospital’s role as a major economic engine for Whidbey Island. The hospital is the island’s second largest employer and has an economic impact to this community of approximately $53 million. Investing in WGH is also an investment in local jobs and the health of our economy.

5. It will help the hospital’s bottom line with an efficient design that utilizes nursing and professional staff more effectively.

6. It will prevent patients who want to be assured of receiving the benefits of a single-patient room from traveling off island for their care.

WGH is a vital institution on Whidbey Island. The new hospital wing is a sensible and necessary investment in our community’s health. The new wing is focused entirely on patients and devoted to clinical services. It is something we can all be proud to support. Having a hospital close to home that provides all the essential services we might need is vital for all of us.

We must act now to ensure we have the hospital we need for ourselves and the generations to come. The citizens of Whidbey Island have always realized and supported the need for quality EMS and hospital services. When you get your ballot, I encourage you to vote YES for Proposition 1. Vote YES for your local hospital. Vote YES to keep high quality hospital care here on Whidbey Island.

Robert Zylstra was Whidbey General Hospital administrator from 1974 to 1998.



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