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Hospital adds more poking, prodding

After thinking about it for a few years, Whidbey General Hospital plans to balance its chi and loosen up this spring by bringing massage and acupuncture services to the Coupeville facility.

Two weeks ago, the hospital's board of directors allowed hospital administrative staff to figure out how to bring practitioners of the two complementary, alternative healing arts together with Whidbey General patients.

Scott Rhine, the hospital's administrator, said last week the hospital will have massage and acupuncture available by April or May. He just isn't sure where.

"We need to find out if they even need to be in the hospital," he said.

During the next month, hospital administrators and doctors interested in the two health treatments will talk to a number of local practitioners to find out if it is best to send hospital patients out of the building to private offices or to have massage and acupuncture professionals in house.

Either way, Renee Yanke, a clinical nurse in the hospital's cancer department, said she and the oncologists who work at Whidbey General believe their patients can benefit from the two therapies.

"They are very helpful," she said.

She said the therapies can work to relieve pain, provide relaxation and, specifically in the case of acupuncture, can relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Yanke said her preference would be to see massage therapists and acupuncturists in the hospital. She said both healing arts can be useful in other areas, including physical therapy.

Bringing the two therapies into the hospital will also bring a new level of legitimacy. Jeanie Parrott, a licensed massage practitioner who lives in Langley, said she was ready to sign up to work at the hospital last year when Whidbey General was talking about adding massage to its list of services. She said the hospital's decision to add massage to its medical arsenal is a good idea.

"I think it's wonderful," she said. "It's not taken seriously in the health field."

Rhine said he does not believe the services will be a money maker for the hospital. He said start up costs will put massage and acupuncture programs in the red for some months. After that, he said, the services should be "cost neutral."

He was unable to say how much the startup costs would be.

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