Not even its exceedingly spacious lobby, nor the balcony above, proved large enough to contain the hundreds of people who turned out Saturday for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting and open house of the newly constructed hospital on San Juan Island.
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder in rows 10-deep or more, the crowd that had come to tour Peace Island Medical Center spilled out of the lobby, huddled in the entrance of two double-door entrances, and queued up beneath the breezeway outside each.
"We stand in awe today of what they accomplished," PIMC CEO Jim Barnhart said of those who turned the dream of a modern healthcare facility into a movement, and of those who were then swept up by that movement and contributed to the cause, and of those who would later translate that dream into a blueprint and turn it into a reality. "This medical center stands as a testament to the spirit, determination, care and compassion that islanders have for islanders."
If it were a relay race, San Juan Island Community Foundation Chairman Charles Anderson, perhaps the biggest "dreamer" of all, described the day's events as something akin to the passing of a baton, wherein those for whom the critical access rural hospital was built would now be entrusted with completing the next leg of the journey.
"This is very much a handing off of this project to the caregivers, but more importantly, this is a handling off to you," Anderson said, imploring islanders to let their thoughts and opinions be known to the governing board that together with PeaceHealth officials will help to establish the medical center's policies and procedures. "It's so important for you to give us your feedback. Your feedback will keep us on the right track. Here it is, it's yours and we really welcome the community."
On a scorching day in late July, the first shovel broke ground 18 months ago on the 22 acres, adjacent to Friday Harbor Airport, where a medical center now sits. The Foundation's hospital steering committee raised $10 million for construction of the medical center and Washington state-based PeaceHealth, which operates St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, as well as medical centers and rural-care hospitals in Alaska, Washington and Oregon, financed the remaining two-thirds, $20 million.
The facilities were designed by Mahlum Architects, a Seattle-based firm specializing in healthcare facilities, and Howard S. Wright Constructors of Seattle was the project's general contractor. Construction involved numerous San Juan Island-based companies, hired as subcontractors, and the medical center will have 75 full and part-time employees.
A fully integrated medical center, PIMC features a expanded primary care and specialty clinic, expanded diagnostic services center, a 24-hour emergency room, and a 10-bed critical access hospital. It will replace San Juan Island's 38-year-old medical clinic, Inter Island Medical Center, as the island's publicly funded healthcare provider when it opens for business by the end of November. Under terms of a 50-year contract with the San Juan Island Hospital District, PeaceHealth will receive $1.2 million a year of hospital district property tax revenue to subsidize health care at the new medical center.
The hospital district is also leasing a newly constructed building on hospital grounds for headquarters of San Juan Emergency Medical Services.