No fed stimulus money coming for WGH facility

There’s no federal stimulus money for Whidbey General Hospital’s new South End healthcare facility at Bayview, so the project remains on hold until the economy improves, Tom Tomasino, hospital interim chief executive, said Monday.

“It didn’t pan out,” Tomasino said of the hospital’s application for a grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“I don’t know when we will revisit it,” he said of the $18 million project. “There are a lot of healthcare agencies regionally and nationally that are putting their projects on hold.”

Tomasino said hospital officials have stopped trying to find funds for the building until the economy turns around. He said there definitely will be no action this year.

So the building site across Highway 525 from Bayview Center remains vacant but for an ancient mobile home and the hospital’s proposed-use sign, rapidly being obscured by vegetation.

“We’ll keep our eye on it,” Tomasino said of the project. “When the economy does turn around, we’ll try to move forward.”

On the bright side, the hospital’s new emergency medical services building at Bayview, begun nearby before the downturn and not affected by it, is nearly finished. The grand opening is expected early next month.

As for the other building, the hospital’s board late last year approved acquiring $18 million in revenue bonds to construct and outfit the two-story South Healthcare Services Center on the hospital-owned site.

The 23,000-square-foot structure, designed by Mahlum Architects of Seattle, is projected to cost about $10 million and would centralize patient services on the South End.

Construction was scheduled to begin this spring, with completion a year later. The facility would replace the crowded rural health clinic in Clinton and concentrate South End hospital services.

“They’re disappointed,” Tomasino said of the staff of the Clinton clinic, “but they understand the financial realities.”

The new 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.

An urgent-care and walk-in clinic might also be included.

“It’s always sad when we can’t move forward with our plans,” Grethe Cammermeyer of Langley, the South End representative on the Whidbey General Hospital Board of Commissioners, said Monday. “But just because it’s not happening now doesn’t mean it’s shelved.”

The Clinton clinic, in a storefront along Highway 525 at Ken’s Korner near ProBuild building supply, has no room to expand at a time when the number of patient visits continues to increase.

Tomasino said the clinic would be updated with new carpet, paint and other cosmetic touches.

“It’s still usable,” he said. “Our biggest challenge is space. We’ve outgrown it.”

Cammermeyer said that hospital officials will continue to look for more space in the area for use by the clinic.

Tomasino said officials looked at scaling back the new health-services building, but rejected the idea.

“We tried to design in as much energy efficiency as possible, so each part of the building depends on another part,” he said. “We’d lose those efficiencies.”

Meanwhile, Tomasino said the new EMS building across the highway will be finished ahead of schedule and under budget.

The 4,500-square-foot structure, funded by a levy approved in 2006 and nearly completed along Highway 525 near Bayview Road next to the park-and-ride lot, was also designed by Mahlum Architects and was originally expected to cost around $2.2 million.

It was constructed by Corstone Contractors of Snohomish.

The building has three vehicle bays for ambulances and accommodates six crew members.

It will replace the current facility in Freeland.

“It’s a beautiful building,” Tomasino said. “We’re glad to have it completed.

“It should be much more efficient for the South End,” he added. “That was one of our goals when we first started talking about it.”

Cammermeyer cautioned that despite its name, the EMS facility is for hospital ambulance crews only, and provides no emergency medical services on-site.

Since becoming a commissioner late last year, Cammermeyer has conducted five community forums to gather and pass along information about healthcare on the South End. She plans another forum in the fall.

“I think people are interested in looking for access to healthcare,” she said.

She urged South End residents to visit the hospital Web site, click here, to find out about services available in the area.

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