The WhidbeyHealth Wire 4

The New Normal in Healthcare

January 17, 2023

The new normal for Washington State hospitals is living with massive waves of new COVID-19 virus variations every few months, respiratory and flu outbreaks, long waits in our emergency rooms and clinics, financial difficulties, challenges recruiting and retaining staff, and availability of acute-care beds and post-care beds in nursing homes and other care facilities. The new normal has only served to exacerbate all these challenges.

Our emergency rooms are challenged with a new type of patient, referred to as a “boarder” – a patient held in an emergency room bed who no longer needs or qualifies to be there. These patients are waiting for transfer to a higher or lower level of care without beds available or the ability to safely relocate the patient. These patients are being held for several days, weeks, and sometimes months. Washington State has one of the lowest collective number of acute care and psychiatric beds in the nation. Occupying ER beds for extended periods of time means less access available for those needing emergency care.

There is no end in sight to the challenges of recruiting an retaining staff – doctors, nurses, and front-line personnel in healthcare across the State and Whidbey Island. The shortage of clinical professionals means that a hospital or assisted living facility being “at capacity” no longer means they are out of beds – rather they may have an excess of beds, but do not have the personnel to safely manage the care of additional patients.

A hospital may have 100 beds, but only 75 can be used due to staffing limitations. For those living along the I-5 corridor that means finding another hospital (if you can) sometimes hundreds of miles from Whidbey Island.

This is our “new normal” in healthcare. We are looking at progressive ways to ensure our patients can continue to receive the care when and where they need it, in the appropriate setting.

  • Upgrading our processes and technology to hire people more quickly, along with deploying recruitment and retention strategies.
  • Working with our congressional delegation to find funding.
  • Implementing virtual health strategies, including telemedicine for minor urgent care, available 24/7.
  • Improving through-put in our two walk-in clinics and expanding services in our newly re-opened Freeland Primary Care clinic.
  • Implementing outpatient behavioral health services both in clinic and virtual settings.
  • Introducing a new customer service program.

We strongly encourage the Whidbey community to utilize our Walk-In Clinics whenever possible. Everything we do is aimed at providing value to our patients, providers, employees, and community.

Together we will manage and improve healthcare services under the new normal, together.

Board of Commissioners Applications Open

January 4, 2023

Any persons interested in appointment to the Whidbey Island Public Hospital District’s Board of Commissioners must submit a written letter of interest as well as a professional resume.

The Board of Commissioners has five (5) seats, representing the population of Whidbey Island. Board members are considered “at large” so they are accessible to the full community and do not represent any specific geographic location. Board of Commissioner candidates can reside anywhere on Whidbey Island (within the hospital district).

For the Commissioner Application information, please visit our Board of Commissioner’s page: https://whidbeyhealth.org/about-us/board-of-commissioners.

APPLICANT DEADLINE: January 31, 2023 @ 5:00pm (PST)

Your Health Heroes, working for you 24/7

12.28.2022

It’s that time of year – the holiday season. Filled with friends, family and loved ones. It’s also a time for giving.

While we enjoy the season, WhidbeyHealth would like to recognize and celebrate the gift of compassion and care that so many provide to our community and shine a light on the tremendous work being done day in and day out by our teams of care professionals. Whether inclement weather or the holidays themselves, WhidbeyHealth’s Emergency Room, Walk-In Clinics, Primary and Specialty Care Clinics, Inpatient Services (and ICU), Family Birthplace, and countless supporting departments at the Medical Center remain available to our community. These extraordinary individuals are hard at work making sure our community stays safe and healthy, while we enjoy the festivities of the season.

This winter has been particularly taxing to our healthcare system. from influenza to respiratory illnesses, COVID, and the day-to-day illnesses and accidents. Emergency Rooms and hospital beds are full across the state. As WhidbeyHealth looks toward the future and how to best serve our community in 2023, your team of local healthcare professionals have been working non-stop. Providing care when we need it the most.

On behalf of our Whidbey Island community, WhidbeyHealth would like to thank the tireless efforts of all our staff. Their dedication to local healthcare, when and where our patients need it most is remarkable and should be celebrated. Thank you for all you do for us each and every day – our providers, nurses, aides, technicians, therapists, laboratory and radiology professionals, pharmacists, house keepers, kitchen staff, and so many others! You’re providing all of us on Whidbey a healthier tomorrow.

Stay connected with us for current information at https://www.facebook.com/WhidbeyHealth

WhidbeyHealth Announces Primary Care Clinic Re-Opening in Freeland

11.18.2022

Whidbey Island Public Hospital District (WhidbeyHealth), announces the re-opening of the Primary Care Freeland office on December 1, 2022. The office will open initially with one primary care provider with two additional providers to join the practice in January 2023.

WhidbeyHealth is excited to announce the grand re-opening of Primary Care Freeland for our South Whidbey residents and visitors. Nurse Practitioner Alison Katus will care for patients from the Freeland primary care clinic. Joining NP Katus in January will be Dr. Teresa Murphy and Nurse Practitioner Kristina Katarina Johnstone at: 5486 S. Harbor Ave, Freeland, WA 98249.

“We are very excited to be able to return Primary Care services to our community in Freeland,” remarked Dr. Garth Miller, COO. “The re-opening will allow greater flexibility for our patients and provide an additional primary care clinic for those on the south-end of our island.”

At WhidbeyHealth we believe everyone on Whidbey Island deserves local access to high-quality healthcare. WhidbeyHealth provides progressive, patient centric healthcare, a safety net when emergencies happen, and peace of mind, knowing our team is standing by 24/7 to respond to the needs of Whidbey Island residents and visitors. WhidbeyHealth is comprised of the Medical Center in Coupeville, and nine (9) outpatient clinics across Whidbey Island.

Stay connected with us for current information at https://www.facebook.com/WhidbeyHealth

MARK YOUR CALANDARS!

The WhidbeyHealth Foundation is excited to host the Tour de Whidbey in 2023!

August 19, 2023

Known as one of the most beautiful bike rides in the Pacific Northwest, the Tour de Whidbey draws hundreds of riders from across the country. Ride routes range from our flat 10-mile Family Route to our Perimeter of Whidbey Endurance Route (POWER), a 162-mile route with over 10,000 feet of total elevation.

Tour de Whidbey is a fantastic event that brings locals and visitors together who share a passion to ride for a cause!

Take in the breathtaking views from the “back roads” or ocean vistas from the waters’ edge. Leisurely ride or push yourself to the limit. This one-day event is not a race – riders start and finish at their own pace. It’s a ride for the fun, for the challenge, for your health, and for the impact!

Pick the route that fits your skills and fuels your passion to ride. Every route has fully stocked hospitality break stations every 10-18 miles:

  • POWER (Perimeter of Whidbey Endurance Route) – 162 mile routes around the perimeter of our beautiful island
  • Century – 100 mile route through North and South Whidbey
  • Metric Century Plus – 68 mile routes through South Whidbey
  • Half Century – 50 mile routes through North and Central Whidbey
  • Metric Half Century – 33 mile routes through North Whidbey
  • Family – 10 mile route winds through the areas in and around Coupeville with a break station at the 5-mile mark

2023 Tour de Whidbey proceeds support the purchase of vital equipment for the WhidbeyHealth Medical Center and Clinics.

The mission of the WhidbeyHealth Foundation is to make sure WhidbeyHealth has the resources needed to provide patient-centered quality care for Whidbey residents and visitors alike. Together, we’re keeping Whidbey Island safe and healthy.

For additional information and to register, please visit: www.tourdewhidbey.org

The WhidbeyHealth Wire 3

The ‘Boarder’ Crisis

July 18, 2022

Hospitals throughout Washington state are facing unprecedented capacity challenges and those challenges have made their way to Whidbey Island.

Hospitals are operating above their capacity, impacting their ability to provide timely care to all people who urgently need it. As larger urban hospitals reach capacity, smaller rural hospitals are caring for more complex patients that normally would be transferred. The downstream effect is reduced access to OUR Emergency Department and acute inpatient care.

The biggest factor impacting capacity is patients awaiting discharge to nursing homes, behavioral health facilities or other similar settings. Statewide, between 10 and 20% of hospital beds are occupied by patients who are awaiting discharge to one of these settings. In July, WhidbeyHealth has averaged 8 patients per day, without options for safe discharge to an appropriate care setting. Many for days, weeks, and in some cases, a month.

WhidbeyHealth’s Emergency Department has 13 patient rooms. Earlier this week, our ED had 10 patients “boarding” while awaiting discharge to another facility. With the ED operating with only 3 rooms – only 3 patients could be seen at a time, including anyone brought in by ambulance. When patients are held in our ED, it causes delays for patients seeking emergency treatment. WhidbeyHealth is not alone in this struggle.

“There are no easy answers for this challenge. Answers will come through improved guardianship rules, state funding for more psychiatric beds, and additional utilization of our Walk-In clinics.” Mike Layfield, WhidbeyHealth CEO continues, “Washington has the lowest number of hospital beds per capita in the US. This position is untenable for staff and the patients we care for. It’s increasingly challenging for our patients, many of which only have WhidbeyHealth as an option for care.”

How can we fix this on our island and across the state?

Patients are stuck in hospital beds due to inadequate state funding and slow state approval of long-term care placement – all while hospitals and health systems in Washington are struggling financially.

  • The last federal COVID dollars were provided before the Delta and Omicron COVID surge.
  • Costs for supplies and staff have skyrocketed while reimbursement remains stagnant.
  • Most hospitals in Washington have not had a Medicaid rate increase in 20 years.
  • There continues to be a staffing shortage across the health care industry and in hospitals.
  • Hospital staff have also been hit hard by the most recent wave of COVID, with staff who test positive unable to work for 5-10 days.

Rural hospitals like ours are the first line of care for heart attacks, strokes, trauma, and other emergency and acute care needs. People are now waiting longer for care, putting them at higher risk.

WhidbeyHealth is working with our partners in Olympia to enact change:

  • End discriminatory practices towards Medicaid patients by requiring unnecessary guardianships.
  • Fund bed readiness programs at acute care hospitals.
  • Maintain and expand programs to stabilize long-term care facilities and behavioral health.
  • Expand child and adult respite capacity to prevent inappropriate hospitalization of children and adults with developmental disabilities.

WhidbeyHealth is fighting every day for our community’s health. We appreciate the grace and understanding that you have all shown as we navigate the current health care climate.

Board of Commissioners Applications Open

July 11, 2022

Any persons interested in appointment to the Whidbey Island Public Hospital District’s Board of Commissioners must submit a written letter of interest as well as a professional resume.

The Board of Commissioners has five (5) seats, representing the population of Whidbey Island. Board members are considered “at large” so they are accessible to the full community and do not represent any specific geographic location. Board of Commissioner candidates can reside anywhere on Whidbey Island (within the hospital district).

For the Commissioner Application information, please visit our Board of Commissioner’s page: https://whidbeyhealth.org/about-us/board-of-commissioners.

APPLICANT DEADLINE: Thursday, September 1, 2022 @ 5:00pm PST

The WhidbeyHealth Wire 2

June 21, 2022

Change is always interesting. There are many different kinds of change and many different perspectives on what result that change will leave. Ideally, change brings with it something improved, repaired or redirected. Through a different lens it can bring turmoil. For the past several years, WhidbeyHealth has been in financial and medical staff turmoil. Important for our future, those struggles are now in the rear view. Through the challenges though, one this has remained constant – the quality of care.

The last few years have been fraught with fear, uncertainty and isolation. What we don’t speak enough about are the hundreds of compassionate, empathetic and dedicated individuals who have been committed to providing our island community with nothing but the best health care possible.

Our quality has never wavered.

Did you know WhidbeyHealth is an accredited Critical Access hospital? Did you know that our HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores are higher than Washington state average… higher than the national average? Did you know we have nationally accredited Cancer Care and Oncology services? Did you know we have nationally accredited Laboratory Care? Did you know we have not had a reportable surgical site infection in over a year, or any device associated infections in nearly three years? Did you know WhidbeyHealth provides training and operational best practices to other regional hospitals on effective antimicrobial practices? We are neighbors helping neighbors and following through on the tenets this hospital was founded upon.

The community asked; WhidbeyHealth delivered. The quality care we provide was confirmed with our inaugural NIAHO (National Integrated Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations) accreditation survey. We selected DNV to be our accrediting body, knowing they audit the whole continuum of care. Aside from validating Medicare requirements, we’re leveraging best practices from CMS, Brain Attack Coalition, American Heart Association, International Organization of Standardization, and the World Health Organization to bring Whidbey Island the best care possible.

The HCAHPS are the nationally standardized, publicly reported survey of a patient’s perspective of the care they received. Did you know that our patients rate the quality of care they received from WhidbeyHealth higher than the state’s average? Higher than the national average? With an overall patient score of 4 of 5 stars, we’re bringing exceptional care to our island.

WhidbeyHealth was rated in the top 10 healthcare institutions in Washington for nursing care and communication in 2021 (HCAHPS). That places us above most of our neighbors along the I-5 corridor, and alongside the likes of UW Medical Center and Virginia Mason Medical Center.

A small, rural hospital, on an island in the Puget Sound, doesn’t sound like a recipe for great healthcare. Despite that, our care is world class. We are here for you, our community, standing by to provide the highest quality care.

-Conor O’Brien, Marketing & Community Relations Manager

Sources:

DNV: https://www.dnv.com/services/hospital-accreditation-7516

HCAHPS: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Quality-Initiatives-Patient-Assessment-Instruments/HospitalQualityInits/HospitalHCAHPS

The WhidbeyHealth Wire

May 24, 2022

A two-plus year pandemic. Years of financial distress. A vote of no confidence from the medical staff. Near financial collapse. WhidbeyHealth has come a long way in recent months, surviving and working towards sustaining.

In March, the hospital district’s Board of Commissioners selected HealthTechS3 to provide experienced leadership that would help the hospital district improve its financial position quickly and efficiently – the first phase of stabilization. Hospital leadership is working to repair the communication and relationship with the medical staff. The two have agreed to collaborate alongside the district’s Board to improve hospital operations and community wellness as one team.

We’ve had many successes of late, widely discussed in the Whidbey News Times & South Whidbey Record. We’ve identified financial improvement measures that better our position by $8 million this year and $12 million next year. We’ve been able to improve our cash liquidity from 10 days of operating cash on hand to over 30 in two short months.

WhidbeyHealth has been busy. It’s the community, the compassion and the care that drives us. It’s what continues to drive us as we transition into the next phase of stabilization. With that, we would like to share some breaking news:

An element of annual healthcare finance auditing is the evaluation of an institution’s “credit” and the likelihood of timely repayment on loans, etc. We’ve fixed elements of our finances that have updated our rating. We have now been re-audited and the “growing concern” tag that was attached to our rating, has been removed. What does this mean? It means WhidbeyHealth now has the credit stability needed to secure the financing we need to support our sustainability goals. This is a big win and a corner turned.

In other news:

  • We have a new Medical Director of Women’s Health and OB/GYN Care. She will be joining us in September.
  • We have another OB/GYN that we believe will join our team in September as well.
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation Care has resumed after a staffing-related hiatus.
  • We are renegotiating an equipment contract, resulting in less expenses and access to a new CT scanner.
  • Fluoroscopy services are expected to resume later this year.
  • Moody’s Investor Service reassessed our financial position and believed us to be solvent in the short term and will reassess a third time as additional improvement measures are implemented.

WhidbeyHealth is very excited to share some positive news with our community. There is renewed hope for our future as we work to gain community confidence in WhidbeyHealth and all the care services we provide. We appreciate the opportunity Sound Publishing and WNT/SWR have provided us.

-Mike Layfield, Interim CEO

Moody’s Updated Position on WhidbeyHealth Finances

05.17.2022

The Whidbey Island Public Hospital District (WhidbeyHealth) has received an update to their annual analysis from Moody’s Investor Service. Moody’s has adjusted their initial assessment to reflect its belief that the district is now positioned to avoid default on its $6.8 million bond anticipation notes (BANS) due January 1, 2022, but now extended ninety (90) days to September 1. Repayment terms with Heritage Bank are under discussion.

Moody’s reassessment confirmed their belief that the district’s weak financial position has uncertain long-term prospects of repaying unlimited tax general obligation (GOULT) bonds of $44.9 million and $12.3 million of the limited tax general obligation (GOLT) bonds. The GOULT rating was downgraded one notch to Ba3, while the GOLT rating remained unchanged.

“We are pleased to receive the latest release from Moody’s today,” stated Jim Childers, Interim CFO. “Moody’s reassessment confirms the beneficial work towards long-term financial sustainability that the district’s leadership has been working towards and acknowledges the improvements in cash flow through year end 2022.”

The current belief by Moody’s is attributed to a new management company and management team, as well as significant updates to the district’s strategic plan for meaningful budgetary realignments, cost controls and revenue growth. Moody’s may opt to revisit the district’s rating infrastructure as WhidbeyHealth continues to implement their financial turnaround measures – demonstrating timely repayment of outstanding debt, stabilizing and improving cash flow, improving financial reporting practices, and improving medical staff relations.

Moody’s Investor Service (MIS) is a global provider of credit ratings, research and risk analysis. A rating from Moody’s enables issuers to create go-to market debt strategies with the ability to capture wider investor focus and provides investors with a comprehensive view of global debt markets through ratings and research.

Media inquiries: Conor O’Brien at obrienc@conorobrien

Stay connected with us for current information at our website: https://whidbeyhealth.org/ or on social media at: https://www.facebook.com/WhidbeyHealth.

Introducing: the Swing Bed program at WhidbeyHealth

04.21.2022

WhidbeyHealth is happy to announce the formal start to our Swing Bed program, providing specialized inpatient recovery and care to the residents of Whidbey Island.

Swing Bed services are a stop for the patient between hospital and home, where patients receive the continued care they need for an optimal recovery from illness, injury or surgery. Residents receiving care from other health care providers no longer need to stay far away from home for the duration of their recovery. With Swing Bed care available at WhidbeyHealth, you can be treated elsewhere but recover close to family and home.

WhidbeyHealth is proud to bring this level of care to our community – letting patients heal close to home, while the family has piece of mind and comfort knowing their loved one is receiving the help they need to get back to their best.

For additional information on WhidbeyHealth’s Swing Bed program, you can learn more: here.

Obstetrics and Women’s Care at WhidbeyHealth

03.25.2022

As we (WhidbeyHealth) work towards our strategic organizational recovery, rumors have been circulating throughout the Whidbey Island community that we would like to address head-on. WhidbeyHealth has made the decision to reinvest in our obstetric and gynecological programs. These programs will not be terminated.

Women’s health and maternal services are critical services for our community. WhidbeyHealth looks forward to continuing to provide women’s health and maternal services for many years to come. We are grateful for the outpouring of community support that we have received for our staff, providers, and Women’s Health programs.

Community questions are welcomed while the hospital district navigates its financial recovery. Please direct any community or media inquiries to the Marketing and Community Relations Manager, Conor O’Brien at obrienc@whidbeyhealth.org.

Media inquiries: Conor O’Brien at obrienc@conorobrien

Stay connected with us for current information at our website: https://whidbeyhealth.org/ or on social media at: https://www.facebook.com/WhidbeyHealth.

WhidbeyHealth Announces Primary Care Clinic Relocation to Clinton

03.15.2022

Whidbey Island Public Hospital District (WhidbeyHealth), announces the relocation of the Primary Care Freeland office to the Walk-In Clinic Clinton location on April 19, 2022.

WhidbeyHealth is excited to announce the upcoming combination of Primary Care and Walk-In Care clinics or South Whidbey residents and visitors. The new practice model increases community access to health care services that would otherwise only be available at a different location. Starting April 19, 2022, patients seen at our Primary and Walk-In Care Clinic Clinton, will have access to primary care, walk-in care, laboratory and diagnostic imaging (including women’s care imaging) at: 11245 State route 525, Clinton, WA 98236.

“The relocation of primary care services in Freeland to our Clinton clinic provides greater access to important services, like lab, imaging and walk-in care,” commented Dr. Garth Miller, COO. “Primary Care patients will no longer need to travel to a different clinic for tests, draws or imaging prior to their appointments. This move will increase the coverage and accessibility to care in our community.”

At WhidbeyHealth we believe everyone on Whidbey Island deserves local access to high-quality healthcare. WhidbeyHealth provides progressive, patient centric healthcare, a safety net when emergencies happen, and peace of mind knowing our team is standing by 24/7 to respond to the needs of Whidbey Island residents and visitors. WhidbeyHealth is comprised of the Medical Center in Coupeville, and nine (9) outpatient clinics across Whidbey Island.

Stay connected with us for current information at https://www.facebook.com/WhidbeyHealth

Interim CEO Begins Turnaround Work at WhidbeyHealth

March 7, 2022

Whidbey Island Public Hospital District (WhidbeyHealth) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mike Layfield as Interim CEO. Layfield, positioned by HealthTechS3, the district’s partnered management services provider, will guide the district’s needed financial turnaround to ensure the sustainability of healthcare on Whidbey Island.

Layfield, a seasoned hospital CEO, has spent the last 15 years working in small-town, 25-bed critical access hospitals. He is a leader who champions innovation and health reform, leading multiple hospital turnarounds. Mr. Layfield earned his B.S. in Management from Columbus State University and is a graduate of Duke University’s Health Management Improvement Program.

“The Board and I are confident that HealthTechS3 is the right partnership to help turn around the district’s financial position,” remarked Ron Wallin, hospital district Board President. “[HealthTechS3 and Layfield] have a track record of successfully integrating critical access health care systems, while ensuring strategic goals and patient experience needs are met.”

HealthTechS3 Management was selected as the district’s partnered management services provider at the February 23, 2022 Board Meeting. The WhidbeyHealth Board of Commissioners made the selection in collaboration with WhidbeyHealth finance, plant & infrastructure, and nursing leadership, as well as representation from the Medical Staff.

Open Letter to our Whidbey Island Community

From: WhidbeyHealth Board of Commissioners – Ron Wallin, Grethe Cammermeyer, Nancy Fey, Eric Anderson, James Golder

March 3, 2022

Over recent weeks there have been major upheavals within the WhidbeyHealth system, including sweeping changes in senior leadership and identification of a severe financial shortfall which was reported to the community at the February 17th meeting of the Board.

The purpose of this letter is to bring everyone up to speed on how we have approached these two challenges thus far.

When the Board terminated the prior CEO, we considered several options to recruit a suitable replacement. Our priority is to find a strong healthcare leader with a history of success at ‘turning around’ financially troubled hospitals like ours.

On two prior occasions, the Board has promoted candidates from within the staff organization. We have also used professional recruiters (‘headhunters’) to conduct a national search.

We felt neither of these was the best approach given our urgent need to high-impact leadership and the skills needed to restore financial stability. Like many hospitals in the United States have done, we decided to engage the support of a specialized hospital management firm and solicited proposals from two qualified organizations.

There are many benefits to this approach, not the least of which is access to subject matter expertise in areas including finance, healthcare technology, clinical quality, and other areas of performance improvement such as purchasing and supply chain and optimizing reimbursement from insurance companies.

After entertaining proposals from two specialized hospital management firms, and with input from administration and the clinical side of the hospital, the Board selected HealthTechS3 (HTS3) as our Management team with Mr. Mike Layfield as Interim CEO for WhidbeyHealth. We are confident that Mike’s decades of positive experience of turning around at least 15 hospitals will help us now as we move forward. Ultimately, we will be hiring a full time CEO through HealthTechS3. HTS3 will also assist us in identifying a full time CFO to continue the adjustments we will need to make to improve our fiscal health.

Throughout the process, we have received hundreds of comments and opinions from island residents, each were taken into consideration by the Commissioners. We are very grateful for the effort our neighbors have put into connecting with us, and we hope you will continue to give us your thoughts as we move through this transition to a vibrant, sustainable health system.

Many major achievements have been realized in the last few years. WhidbeyHealth is now a DNV Accredited Hospital and recently received acknowledgement by Becker’s Hospital Review for excellence in Nursing Care. Our Cancer Center – MAC Clinic – is nationally accredited. We have recently opened the Community Pharmacy in Coupeville and Walk-In Clinics in Clinton and Oak Harbor have been opened to meet the requests and needs of the community. The Covid-19 response was extraordinary and volunteers from the community made possible what was unavailable to many communities elsewhere in the United States.

We live here, too and like you – we care, value and are excited about the future of WhidbeyHealth as we move forward. We hope you will continue to connect with us during this transformation.

Thank you for your support,

Ron Wallin, President

Nancyjean Fey, Secretary

Grethe Cammermeyer

Eric Anderson

James Golder