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$50 million bond for Whidbey General hospital?

In terms of facilities, Whidbey General Hospital is facing stiff competition from its neighbors.

Nearby hospitals in recent years have poured tens of millions of dollars into building upgrades.

Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett almost two years ago opened a 700,000-square-foot addition at its Colby Campus while Island Hospital in Anacortes completed renovations in 2007 and 2012. Those expansions include the addition of single-patient rooms, a main tenet of Whidbey General Hospital’s expansion plan.

Hospital officials hope the Coupeville-based campus will be the latest medical facility with single-patient rooms, but the plan is contingent on voter approve of a $50 million bond measure that will appear on the November ballot. The proposal needs to pass by a 60 percent supermajority.

If approved, the bond would be paid off in 25 years and cost property owners an estimated 32.2 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. The money would fund construction of a new wing that would include 39 single-patient rooms, transform the current patient wing into clinic space, provide room for future expansion and construct a new parking lot, as the new wing would be built on top of the existing parking area.

“I think it would make a big difference for the patient experience,” said Belinda Hawkins, who has been a nurse at Whidbey General Hospital for 30 years. The biggest complaint patients have, she said, is having a second person in the room and being asked to move from room to room.

She added that the current rooms are extremely cluttered for patients, especially when families are visiting.

“It can get overstimulating for patients,” Hawkins said. She added the single rooms would lead to more satisfaction, and it would give patients more privacy and a better place to sleep.

The competition

Providence’s tower expansion was larger than Whidbey General’s plans.

The new tower gives the facility 491 beds between its two Everett campuses located on Colby and Pacific avenues. It also has room to add an additional 112 rooms, but Providence would have to get state approval through the Certificate of Need before that could happen, hospital spokeswoman Cheri Russum said in an email.

Tom Brennan, chief strategy officer for Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, said the tower was built for a 50-year life span.

The new tower included mostly private rooms and some semi-private rooms. While the older buildings do have double rooms, Brennan said staff works to keep one patient per room as much as possible.

“Patients would prefer a private room,” Brennan said. He noted that there is room for families to visit their loved ones too.

“We want to make sure the family feels comfortable,” Brennan said.

Providence’s rooms provide better infection control, better noise control and equipment to help hospital staff. Brennan noted that the rooms have lifts in them to help move patients. Even a patient that weighs 150 pounds can cause an injury if an employee attempts to lift them alone.

Whidbey General Hospital officials have noted the importance of having lifts in rooms. Currently employees have to wheel lifts into hospital rooms. Hawkins said the current rooms aren’t big enough to accommodate equipment.

Providence’s new tower also improved technology, gave doctors larger operating rooms, and allowed for the transition to a level II trauma center. The expansion in Everett cost approximately $448 million and was funded by the Providence health system and through public debt.

Anacortes’ Island Hospital opened a 70,000-square-foot building containing a full-service lab, diagnostic imaging, emergency care center and a floor dedicated to acute care and intensive care nursing that featured private rooms, according to Island Hospital spokesman Dennis Richards. 2008 saw the opening of renovated birth center, lobby and support areas.

Island Hospital’s expansion was funded by a $30.5 million general obligation bond that voters passed with a 79 percent majority.

Island opened a new medical arts pavilion in 2012 that included a cancer care center and a physical occupational and speech therapy department. The new building cost $10.3 million and was paid for with hospital revenues, which was also helped by a New Markets Tax Credit program, according to Richards.

Leveling the field

Whidbey General Hospital Board President Anne Tarrant said the hospital’s proposed expansion will help level the playing field between the Coupeville-based hospital and neighboring facilities.

She said the single-patient rooms will provide better privacy, will be safer for employees and provide better infection control.

Voters will decide on the hospital’s future during the November general election, which marks the second time hospital leaders will send the proposal to voters. Two years ago, 55.49 percent of the voters approved the bond, which was short of the 60 percent supermajority needed for approval.

Tarrant said the current and previous proposals are identical. She said the expansion will meet the hospital’s current and future needs.

“We just want to take care of our patients and not fight an antiquated facility,” Hawkins added.

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