Staff photo/Hayley Day
                                Hospital district commissioner Warren Appleton searches through an old medical shelf found in the Inter Island Medical Center.

Staff photo/Hayley Day Hospital district commissioner Warren Appleton searches through an old medical shelf found in the Inter Island Medical Center.

Old island medical center cleared out, sold on San Juan

Nearly 45 years after it first opened, the Inter Island Medical Center facility has been emptied and sold.

The last remainders of the Spring Street building were cleared out before its sale to a Friday Harbor corporation for $875,000 was finalized on Nov. 16.

For almost 40 years, the roughly 1 acre of land housed the local medical facility that operated before San Juan Island’s hospital opened. The property was owned by San Juan County Public Hospital District 1.

When operations were moved to Peace Island Medical Center in 2012, hospital district superintendent Pam Hutchins said items – from medical equipment to personal items like lunch boxes and photographs of pets – were left in the building.

“Everything was just full,” said Hutchins. “A patient could have come in here.”

The Inter Island Medical Center opened around the time hospital district commissioner Warren Appleton started practicing emergency medicine off the island. As he was clearing out the fully furnished building on Nov. 14, he found tools he once used, in medical practices gone by.

Obsolete equipment included handles to clamp on a baby’s head during delivery, which he said he used in the 1970s.

Appleton, who later began practicing on San Juan, delivered his last three babies at Peace Island Medical Center before he stopping taking patients last year, without, of course, the handles.

“It was like driving a tank to deliver a baby,” he said of the tool.

In a glass and wooden shelf, he also came across a pocket medical dictionary published in 1930 and an old surgical head mirror with a black strap, among other relics. The items, he said, will be kept by the hospital district, and maybe even displayed.

According to Hutchins, the first island clinic was built in 1957 by Dr. Malcolm Heath. By 1973, the Inter Island Medical Center opened on land donated by the Island Convalescent Center. The roughly 10,000-square-foot building was funded by a commercial loan and federal grant, as well as local, private donations. As medical practices, costs and insurances changed, a hospital district to support the facility was formed in 1989.

Now, with the Spring Street property sold, Hutchins said the proceeds will help pay down the bond on the San Juan Island EMS building, which the district also owns. In the roughly five years on the market, about five offers were made on the Inter Island Medical Center property and later withdrawn. It had been for sale since January 2013, but Hutchins felt a sort of disbelief about the purchase.

As volunteers helped to clear items on Nov. 14, a courtesy landline still hung in the waiting room, the built-in file folders still lined the receptionist’s station and a plaque honoring Dr. Heath was still attached to a wall.

“It just so surreal to me,” Hutchins said.