Letters to the Editor

Engineer sees clear need for hospital

As a 26-year retired Navy Master Chief and a 19 year employee of Whidbey General Hospital working in the Plant Operations Engineering department, I feel I have a few things to say about whether or not we need a new hospital expansion. It seems there are those out there who apparently know everything about every subject. They have no conscience about what they are trying to influence, in the way of this hospital.

Getting to the point I am privileged to be among five engineers working for a wonderful boss, Troy Holmes. I see the many published reasons for needing the new expansion and they are valid in every way. I however see the many things that also support the upgrade and they are as follows:

“Nurse Call” system by Dukane Corp. was installed in the early ‘80s and supports about 75 percent of the hospital patient communication needs. This required system changes the channel on your television, calls the nurse when you need assistance, nurse monitoring and announces the dreaded “code blue” in the event of cardiac failures.

We have been shoe stringing this system along for way too many years. I cannot even get reliable part support for this system any more. If a room’s electronic module fails, we are at the point of cannibalizing other room modules and rendering that room useless. Replacement costs from Rauland estimates at $4,000 dollars a bed or station to retrofit.

Heating and air conditioning is also in the 1980s as far as the equipment goes. Unfortunately oldest patient room (MedSurg) temperatures are a little uncomfortable on the hottest summer days. Only when we close all of the sun soaked windows shades can we keep the temperatures in the mid 80s.

Heating is supplied from two hot water boilers that warm the room through radiators in the ceiling. They work pretty good when you keep the doors closed and have been well maintained over the years however this system is not as energy efficient as it could be.

Electrical in general is safe and meets all of the installation codes required in the ‘70s and ‘80s depending on when they were installed. Case in point is the green ground wire that is missing and utilizes the electrical metal conduit for that purpose instead. Everything you see in the rooms has been modernized and looks good.

Plumbing is also dated and not as easy to upgrade. Most of the cast sewer pipes in the basement have been upgraded to PVC because of leaks. The major problems are the wall toilet mount castings and copper pipes that keep sprouting leaks throughout the hospital. Our crew are experts at fixing those leaks. Also when fixing those leaks, we do encounter asbestos that has to be properly dealt with by licensed abatement personnel.

MedSurg wing carpeting is old and stained over the years, however it cannot be replaced while patients are still in any of the rooms. The carpet is glued to old asbestos tiles that will lift up and have to be removed by licensed abatement contractors if we try to fix it.

Bariatric concerns are ever present when dealing with our largest patients. Our room doors are too small for us to roll in appropriate sized beds for those patients with larger needs. Currently our beds are limited to around 450 to 500 pounds. Island Hospital dealt with this situation by having larger doors and beds. Island Hospital also installed overhead electric gantries in many patient rooms to move those patients safely. Currently we do it by hand or a portable lifting device. Try doing this task with two beds, two nightstands and two chairs in each room.

So do we need the new facility, the answer is a resounding yes.

Walter Nelson
Oak Harbor

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