My wife and I were guests at a lovely Oak Harbor wedding on Saturday, and several of the attendees, who have lived on Whidbey Island for many years, stopped me to ask how the hospital district was doing in light of the article that was your headline for the July 31 Whidbey News-Times: “WhidbeyHealth slapped with three malpractice suits.”
I believe I answered those guests in the way that I promised I would respond as chief of medical staff when I last wrote a letter to the editor of this paper in November — with honesty and transparency. With your indulgence, I would like to tell you how we’re doing.
We’re actually doing very well, indeed.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our challenges. Although our excellent emergency department continues to remain busier than ever, hospital inpatient admissions are down, as they are almost universally in Critical Access Hospitals nationwide. It’s kind of the goal, right? To keep folks out of the hospital.
Financially, though, this poses a challenge, as the Whidbey Island Hospital District depends on income from providing health care in order to keep moving forward. Although we are a public hospital district, less than 1 percent of the revenue we accrue to pay the bills, make payroll and maintain and operate our facilities comes from taxes, which puts us in the lower third of hospitals in Washington state.
Ultimately, this means we need our friends and neighbors to “shop local!” just as our business owners hope you shop locally when buying a car or hiring a wedding caterer.
But spending your hard-earned dollars in these economic times demands that you get a good return on your investment. And that is so important when the investment involves the health of your family.
I want you to know that WhidbeyHealth Medical Center is ranked equally with Providence and higher than Skagit Regional in both clinical outcomes and patient experience. Mortality rates for all major illness categories are the same as the national average, even though we have a higher level of acuity — sicker patients — than most other Critical Access Hospitals.
We perform better than other hospitals both regionally and nationally in the rate of all types of hospital-acquired infections, and we have been credited as a “Best Practice Top Performer.”
For the sake of privacy, I can’t comment on specific cases, but the cases reported last week in this paper are extremely rare for WhidbeyHealth Medical Center. For example, we perform in the top 10 percent of all hospitals in Washington state in preventing events such as device-associated complications, pressure ulcers and falls. Our 800 employees and providers strive to provide the best in quality and safety for each one of the hundreds of patients we serve every day.
I trust WhidbeyHealth to take care of my family members and my patients, and have done so for close to 30 years. I remain confident about our future, and invite you and your family to continue to trust in our doctors and nurses, and everyone else at WhidbeyHealth, to take the best care of you.
• Douglas G. Langrock, M.D., is chief of medical staff for WhidbeyHealth Medical Center.