Credit crunch puts healthcare facility on hold

Whidbey General Hospital’s new South End healthcare facility at Bayview has been put on indefinite hold because of the economy, officials said.

Late last year the hospital’s board approved acquiring $18 million in revenue bonds to construct the two-story South Healthcare Services Center on hospital-owned land across Highway 525 from Bayview Shopping Center.

“The banks have stopped loaning money,” said Trish Rose, hospital spokesperson.

She said hospital officials will continue to pursue permits for the project, while searching for other means of funding.

Rose said the hospital is pushing for a piece of the new federal economic stimulus package, expected to be completed soon.

“They’re looking for projects that can be ready to go in 90 days,” Rose said. “This perfectly fits that criteria.”

She said hospital and local officials have compiled a package of information about the project and have passed it on to the island’s state and federal representatives.

In the information package, labeled “Ready to Go,” officials stress that the project would provide 100 to 150 regional construction jobs for up to a year and a half, and as many as 30 new permanent healthcare and support jobs once the facility is built.

It also would inject millions of dollars of construction revenue into the region, Rose said.

“But there are bound to be other projects looking for the same money,” she added. “It’s a question of who gets it and who doesn’t.”

The 24,000-square-foot structure, designed by Mahlum Architects of Seattle, is projected to cost about $10 million and would centralize patient services offered in the South End.

Construction was scheduled to begin this spring, before money tightened up, with completion a year later.

“We’re just making sure we have all our ducks in line,” Rose said. “If we’re selected, we can go forward. This could be a really great thing for us.”

The new South End facility is projected to offer home healthcare, a rural health clinic, a lab, rehabilitation services, digital imaging, oncology and medical ambulatory care, a wellness center, and community outreach and education.

Meanwhile, the credit crunch hasn’t slowed work on the hospital’s new Emergency Medical Services building next to Bayview Center.

The 4,500-square-foot EMS structure, funded by a levy approved in 2006 and being built along Highway 525 near Bayview Road, is also designed by Mahlum Architects and is expected to cost about $2.2 million total.

The building is being constructed by Corstone Contractor of Snohomish.

It’s expected to be completed in late May, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in June, Rose said.

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