New life given to Whidbey General Hospital bond vote

A commissioner for Whidbey General Hospital resuscitated the idea this week of asking voters to approve a bond measure.

Staff members at the publicly owned hospital continue to struggle with inadequate infrastructure while making strides in medical technology and patient satisfaction.

A proposal to ask the voters to approve a bond to fund expansion of the hospital — with the all-important, single-patient rooms — has been on the back burner since voters failed to pass a $50 million measure in May 2011.

Hospital Commissioner Ron Wallin proposed during Monday’s hospital board meeting that hospital administration re-evaluate a bond.

More than 55 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the bond two years ago, but it fell short of the 60 percent supermajority needed for approval.

Wallin cited the island’s growing population and the aging medical-surgical wing as reasons for urgency. He said construction could take as much as three years.

“We have no doubts about the need for a new inpatient wing. We have the right plans and the right people in place to realize this vision,” Wallin said during the meeting. “Our community tells us in their patient satisfaction surveys that an upgrade is sorely needed.”

Wallin advocated placing a proposal on the November general election.

Commissioner Grethe Cammermeyer questioned whether there would be enough time to educate the public. She recommended possibly holding off on such a proposal until February.

Whidbey General Hospital CEO Tom Tomasino said he doesn’t know how big the bond will need to be. He said he will re-examine the 2011 proposal along with researching construction costs, market conditions and housing prices to come up with a new proposal.

A volunteer group has yet to form to help promote the bond to Whidbey voters.

If voters had approved the bond in 2011, it would have paid for construction of a new wing on the south side of the hospital’s campus. That new wing would include 39 single-patient rooms, which would have replaced the current 34 beds housed in double rooms.

Wallin said the information about the proposal will be shared with the public once the bond details become available.

“The public wants the facts and figures,” Wallin said.