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Sewer work closes hospital wing

Whidbey General Hospital employees scrambled last week to deal with the closure of three departments while the hospital conducts sewer line repair work.

The wing that houses the Surgery Department, Critical Care Unit and the Whidbey Family Birthplace closed Sunday night and won't reopen until Thursday morning to allow workers to fix a sewer leak beneath that wing.

The small leak was found Aug. 2 during a routine test of sewer pipes and needed to be repaired before it worsened, said Trish Rose, hospital spokeswoman.

"We're just glad that we found it before it became a catastrophic failure," Rose said.

Rhine said the hospital has been routinely testing the sewer lines for about two years.

To fix the leak, workers will have to break through 6 inches of concrete and tunnel through 6.5 feet of dirt to reach the 3-inch break in the pipe. They also will have to replace the waste-soaked dirt.

Roto-Rooter of Lynnwood was hired to do the repairs, which will cost an estimated $60,000.

Hospital officials had tried to find a way to repair the pipe with those departments open. After consulting with an architect specializing in hospitals and infection control, Rhine said it was determined that it's best to close those departments during the work.

Rhine said the workers will be working when the departments reopen Thursday morning. He was unsure exactly how long the repairs would take until workers reaches the damaged pipe.

Hospital employees spent a great deal of time rescheduling surgeries.

Although the critical care unit will be closed, the emergency room will remain open during the closure, Rhine said. Patients will be stabilized at the hospital then, if needed, transferred to a nearby facility.

The closure of three departments comes after the hospital made a series of cutbacks and layoffs to deal with revenue shortfalls. Rhine said the hospital has $500,000 in its plant fund for emergency situations.

Rhine said he didn't know how the closure will affect hospital revenue. While the hospital delivers about 18 babies a month, he said it's impossible to get a reliable weekly average.

The hospital has business interruption insurance to help offset the lost money in a shutdown. Hospital officials has to meet with insurance officials to see if compensation is possible.

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