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Bayview on track to become healthcare central in South Whidbey

Bayview will soon be the hub for South End medical services offered by Whidbey General Hospital.

Plans are moving forward on the long-discussed Whidbey General South Healthcare Services Center, to be built on hospital-owned property along Highway 525 across from Casey’s Red Apple Market.

And bids were opened Monday for a new $2.2 million Emergency Medical Services building to be built along the other side of the highway near Bayview Road.

Hospital commissioners received seven bids, all within the range specified by the architects, said Trish Rose, spokeswoman for Whidbey General Hospital.

The EMS building, financed by a 2006 levy, is expected to be completed next spring.

There will be a special meeting of the Whidbey General Hospital board at 1 p.m. in Coupeville on Thursday to announce the EMS bid winner, Rose said.

She said hospital officials are bound to go with the lowest bidder, if all requirements are met.

Meanwhile, the hospital board last week approved acquiring

$18 million in revenue bonds to construct the two-story health services center.

The 24,000-square-foot structure, projected to cost about

$10 million, will centralize patient services offered in the South End.

It is projected to offer home health care, a rural health clinic, a lab, rehabilitation services, digital imaging, oncology and medical ambulatory care, a wellness center, and community outreach and education.

An urgent care and walk-in clinic may also be included, if there’s enough money available, Rose said.

Final plans for the health center are expected to be completed in the next few months, she said.

Construction is scheduled to begin next spring, and the building is expected to be completed a year later.

Both the health services and EMS buildings are being designed by Mahlum Architects of Seattle.

“This is very exciting and very good news for South Whidbey,” Rose said. “People won’t have to drive up to Coupeville. They’ll get great services close to home.”

The health services center will be financed by revenue bonds, which will be paid off over 30 years with money generated by the center, she said.

A portion of the $18 million in bonds approved by the board will be used as a bridge loan to get the EMS building started, and the rest will go to buy the property on which the North Whidbey Community Clinic is located along Goldie Road, Rose said.

When the new health services center opens, the current rural health clinic operated by the hospital in Clinton will close.

The Clinton clinic, in a storefront along Highway 525 at Ken’s Corner just north of Lumbermen’s Building Center, has no room to expand at a time when the number of patient visits continue to increase, Rose said.

Last year, the clinic, with only four exam rooms, had more than 7,000 visitors, she said.

“The rural health clinic has been needing to be closed for many years,” Rose said. “It’s at capacity, there are long waiting lists, and there’s no room to grow.”

However, the hospital’s current medical office in Freeland will remain open, as will the Langley Clinic, if hospital and city officials can work out the details.

Dr. Stan Whittemore said last month that he would close the Langley Clinic on Oct. 31, creating concern from some residents worried about the loss of convenient healthcare.

Since then, Whidbey General and city officials have been working to find a way to keep the clinic open. Hospital commissioners have approved the purchase of patient records and office equipment and are looking into taking over the lease, Rose said.

“It’s looking good,” she said. “It was never our desire to close the Langley Clinic. But you can’t just wish something to happen and have it so. It takes a lot of complex work.”

She said officials hope to make an announcement soon on the clinic’s fate.

The new 4,500-square-foot EMS building will feature broad planes, prominent visibility and natural wood siding, and will reflect the rural character of nearby farms, designers say.

Three vehicle bays will face the highway, and the building will accommodate six people.

Rose said that in looking for a location to build a new EMS center to replace the old and inadequate one at Freeland, data showed the Bayview area was ideally suited when it came to responding to emergency calls.

“This is more centralized,” Rose said. “The Bayview area makes perfect sense.”

Bayview may soon host other public service facilities.

Fire District 3 wants to build a $4 million headquarters and training facility at Bayview Corner, on property it owns across from Bayview School.

Fire Chief Dan Stout has said district officials are considering a levy-lid increase next year to fund the project and make needed improvements to existing facilities.

The fire district serves about 16,000 residents. It has between 70 and 85 volunteers, who receive only stipends for responses and training, Stout said.

The next regular meeting of the hospital board will be Tuesday, Oct. 14, since Monday is a holiday, Columbus Day.

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