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Hospital may build new south facility

Although still too early to call it a sure thing, hospital administrators have proposed funding to build a new facility to house Whidbey General South by 2007.

Located in the same 4,880 square foot building since the mid-1980s, Whidbey General South —a satellite facility owned and operated by Coupeville’s Whidbey General Hospital — houses a community clinic and outpatient services including mammograms, x-ray, and a laboratory for blood draws.

With more patients using Whidbey General South every year and a need for more offices, hospital administrators are pitching to have a new facility built in a yet-undetermined location in South Whidbey.

“There’s no potential for growth,” said Judy Moore, administrator of Whidbey General South.

In 2003, she said, the community clinic alone served 1,127 people, who made a total of 4,922 visits. Through November this year, the clinic has been used 5,406 times.

With an estimated annual patient growth of about 12 percent, combined with the need for more office space, Whidbey General South has outgrown the space available at the building, Moore said.

In addition, Moore said the hospital wants bring back space for physical therapy at Whidbey General South. Physical therapy, which was formerly located in a separate building, was cut at the satellite facility two years ago because new regulations would have made it too expensive to make building improvements, she said.

The new building for Whidbey General South is included in the hospital’s 2005-07 capital budget. Whidbey General Hospital has a separate, $50.3 million operating budget, which was approved earlier this year.

To help shape the final capital budget, all 2005-07 budget items are prioritized by need. In 2005, “urgent” items pencil out to $2.3 million, while those deemed “necessary” are expected to cost $865,505.

But just because something is listed on the budget doesn’t mean Whidbey General Hospital can afford it.

“It really is a wish list,” said Tom Tomasino, the hospital’s chief information officer.

The Whidbey General South expenditure is one of approximately 250 capital items that have been requested in the capital budget for the next three years.

First looked over on Dec. 20 by Whidbey General Hospital’s board of directors, the budget will receive several more reviews in the next couple weeks. The board will then approve a 2005 capital budget — estimated at $3.43 million — sometime next year.

Some other requests include $351,000 for three new ambulances, $310,000 for a digital radiology machine and $2.7 million to buy Whidbey General North in Oak Harbor. Whidbey General Hospital plans to move all its Oak Harbor-based satellite clinic services into one building, which is now under construction.

If the board does approve building Whidbey General South and buying the Whidbey General North building, the $5.4 million price tag is a ballpark figure, said hospital CEO Doug Bishop. He said the purchase price could be financed through either a voted bond or bond sale.

Another Whidbey General Hospital department hoping for a capital equipment upgrade is the diagnostic imaging department.

Randy White, the diagnostic imaging manager, said a new digital radiology machine slated for purchase will be able to take digital images and get a patient diagnosis in a tenth of the time it now takes now.

Some other large suggested capital expenditures for the next three years are $400,000 for a trade ultrasound machine in 2007, $236,000 for new ambulances in 2006 and 2007, $136,800 for plant maintenance in 2005 and $971,226 for management information services changes in 2005

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