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IIMC plans safety corrections to keep extended-stay clinic grant

By JULIA VOURI
Correspondent

Pending correction of a few minor safety conditions, Inter Island Medical Center will keep its $100,000 federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant on track and soon bring up to 48 hours of extended inpatient care to San Juan Island.

The grant is part of the Frontier Extended Stay Clinic demonstration model that IIMC has been exploring through study of similar clinics in Alaska. In the extended-stay clinic model, Medicare allows payment for services to critically ill or injured patients who cannot obtain immediate transport to an acute care hospital, or patients who need monitoring and observation from four to 48 hours.

Bids are being collected to upgrade the clinic’s electrical room, generator plant and oxygen storage facility to meet Frontier Extended Stay Clinic standards, and costs will be picked up by the Medical Guild up to $5,000, according to Beth Williams Gieger, IIMC administrator.

The need for extended care stays and the Frontier Extended Stay Clinic model was a catalyst in the hospital district commissioners’ March 18 decision to give PeaceHealth the authority to build and operate for 50 years a hospital on San Juan Island. The Bellingham-based non-profit healthcare system operates St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham and other healthcare facilities in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

PeaceHealth has initiated the certificate of need process with the state Department of Social and Health Services, which certifies that a hospital is needed on the island. The initial reaction from the state is very positive, said Dr. J. Michael Edwards, a hospital district commissioner and co-chairman of the San Juan Community Hospital Committee.

Once the certificate of need is issued, the committee will request one-third of already pledged philanthropic contributions to fund the design, permitting and planning of the hospital. By this time, PeaceHealth may have purchased a 10- to 11-acre site on the island for the hospital.

In other business, Williams Gieger said that despite increased visitation, 2009 first-quarter revenues were down $55,000 from the first quarter 2008. This was expected, she said, given that patients are meeting deductibles, and that the second quarter would improve.

“We’re making a concentrated effort at watching expenses,” she said. Foremost among these is staffing; therefore, no hires will take place for the balance of 2009, even though one employee resigned and another is out on maternity leave.

“We’re making do with staff we have by rearranging duties,” Williams Gieger said. “We’re also looking at redesigning nursing staffing.” The center will be working with PeaceHealth on a new model beginning next week.

She encouraged islanders to take advantage of free psychiatric consultations in the HRSA Telepsychiatry Demonstration project’s final year. IIMC plans to begin marketing the program to Orcas Island, and will visit clinics to educate the staff about the project. The equipment has been purchased by IIMC, and hopes for the future include getting fee for service, paid for by insurance companies.

News from EMS
EMS Chief Jim Cole encourages people to seek medical attention sooner than later. In keeping with a national trend, more than 50 percent of calls are being transferred off island because people wait until they’re in critical condition before making a call.

The week of May 17 was National EMS Week, and he thanked the volunteer and staff for their hard work. “I know I speak for everyone in the agency when I say that although we give up much of our private life, we take great pride in supporting the community,” he said.

One community service is offered by Lainey Volk and Cady Davies. They created the video "Every 15 Minutes" that recounts the mock drill of a two-car fatal car crash that was staged for Friday Harbor High School students on April 22 and 23. Cole said there’s clear evidence that students who took part in this program decided not to get into a car after they’d been drinking.

The 25-minute video will be available on YouTube in the fall. Until then, you can borrow the video from EMS (378-5152), or access via the updated EMS Web site (sanjuanems.org), which will be online soon. You’ll also be able to register for first aid and CPR classes and outreach programs, and schedule classroom use. EMS plans in the near future also include fund-raising for a "cabulance" for people in wheelchairs or stretchers who need simple transport around the island.

Events to come:
A forum on I-1000 (Death With Dignity Act) is scheduled for June 27, 10 a.m. to noon, EMS Building.

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