WhidbeyHealth: Hospital unveils new name before Langley crowd

Whidbey General Hospital CEO Geri Forbes speaks in Langley Thursday during the first of a series of town hall meetings.

WhidbeyHealth. No, it’s not a typo. It’s Whidbey General Hospital’s new name.

Organization officials announced the change Thursday in Langley at the first of a series of island-wide, town hall-style meetings. CEO Geri Forbes appeared absolutely giddy delivering the news.

“I have a secret to share,” she said with a grin. “We’re changing our name.”

Entering its 46th year, the hospital and its services haven’t been “general” for some time, she said; they aren’t the old brick facility the public imagines, especially with the $50 million expansion now under construction. The new name is meant to convey a sense of “continuance” in care, as the hospital offers care to those on their first day of life, their last and every day in between. Justin Burnett / The Record | Gaila Palo, a clinical nurse specialist, asks a question about under-served populations.

Hospital spokesman Keith Mack said in a later interview that the name, specifically making it one word, was also designed to be simple and unique, and easy to say and remember.

Forbes said she didn’t have an estimate for how much the change will cost, but said they are approaching it “conservatively.” Existing printed materials, such as business cards, will be used up and electronic materials, such as letterheads that can be printed out rather than ordered, will be utilized, she said.

The town hall meeting was the first of three set to take place in locations across Whidbey over the next month; similar quarterly meetings will follow. More than 30 people showed up, but about a dozen were either employed or affiliated with the hospital, according to Anne Tarrant, a commissioner and president of the hospital board. In her introduction, she said the meetings are something the board has wanted to do for some time as a tool to better connect with the public.

“We’ve held board meetings but that’s not really a way to get to know you,” she said.

Commissioner Grethe Cammermeyer, South Whidbey’s representative, was up next. As usual, she was outspoken and didn’t varnish her words.

“Thank you for coming… the alternative was, of course, to watch the Republican debate,” Cammermeyer said.

She also briefly touched on the hospital’s expansion project. She didn’t go into too much detail, but made it clear some hurdles have been challenging. Justin Burnett / The Record | Whidbey General Hospital Commissioner Grethe Cammermeyer speaks during a town hall meeting in Langley on Thursday.

“It’s been a bitch,” she said, earning laughter throughout the room.

Forbes went into greater detail about the expansion, describing the new wing and emphasizing the design and benefits of the 39 new patient rooms. Patients won’t be bunking with other patients any longer, she said.

“We’re really excited about bring the rooms up to 2016 standards,” Forbes said.

She also addressed health care services and of course the name change. Questions from the crowd followed and attendees weren’t shy.

Diane Kendy asked about future expansions, such as a facility in Langley; a past office on Second Street is one of the reasons she moved to town, but it’s now a veterinarian clinic, she said.

Though the hospital is looking at broadening services in strategic areas, nothing is immediately planned for Langley.

“I wish we could fix everything overnight,” Forbes said.

Lynn Willeford brought up staff retention, particularly in clinics. Forbes said they are working on the issue, noting that it’s a multi-faceted challenge. Spouse contentment is a factor, as is community support and patronage.

“It’s also up to you,” she said.

A discussion followed about the associated difficulties of luring new staff to the island. Dr. Kipley Siggard and Dr. John Hassapis, a surgeon, spoke to the issue.

Other discussion focused on the different populations served or underserved, including Navy personnel, and insurance and network issues.

One of the last people to speak was Stig Brandfors; he took the microphone and said the hospital provided first-class medical services but charged up to three times as much as other facilities. Reading from a multi-page document, he spoke for about five minutes before being asked by organizers to share the time with others.

Tarrant said she had no expectations about turnout, and was pleased with the result. She’s looking forward to the next events in Oak Harbor and Coupeville. They are set for for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24 at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club, 1301 S.E. Catalina Drive, and 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 22 at Whidbey General Hospital, Conference Room A & B.