PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center turns 10

By Tom Cable, PeaceHealth Peace Island Community Health Board chair, and Jack Estrada, PeaceHealth Peace Island chief administrative officer.

Ten years ago this month, our community celebrated the opening of PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center—the first and only hospital in the San Juan islands.

It was a proud and joyful moment—the culmination of a five-year effort by a small but mighty group of local residents committed to bringing integrated, high-quality, 24/7 healthcare to our community. These community leaders waged a campaign to persuade fellow Islanders not only of the need for a hospital, but for one that would be beautiful, sustainable and representative of the island’s culture and values.

Under the umbrella of the San Juan Island Community Foundation, the Hospital Committee began pursuing potential partners long before they determined where the facility would be built. After a thorough search, they put their trust in PeaceHealth, a Northwest-based healthcare system founded in Bellingham in 1890 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Its Mission of respect, compassion and caring, along with its depth and breadth of services and reputation for excellence, made it an ideal partner.

Generous locals ultimately donated $10 million towards the effort, with PeaceHealth contributing another $20 million. The Hospital Committee found a perfect location—a 25-acre family homestead less than a mile from the Friday Harbor ferry terminal and across the road from the airport. Construction started in July 2011; the hospital opened on time and on budget at 11:17 a.m. on Nov. 17—a nod to the street address, 1117 Spring St.

Prior to 2012, there were no inpatient beds on the island and no emergency care. Cancer and infusion patients had to go off-island for treatment, and if you needed a colonoscopy you’d likely need to stay in a motel on the mainland to prepare the night before. No outpatient surgery was available, and imaging and lab capabilities were limited.

Since that beginning collaboration, we have shared a vision of improved access to essential healthcare right here on-island: an emergency department (recognized in each of the last five years with a Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award for patient experience), primary care and specialty services—including cancer treatment, diagnostic imaging, cardiology, general outpatient surgery, orthopedics, rehabilitation therapies, comprehensive lab services and more. Local residents have been saved many thousands of off-island medical visits since 2012. The numbers help tell the story:

35,817 Emergency Department visits

1,575 patients admitted

133,203 clinic visits

17,661 chemotherapy infusions

2,825 colonoscopies

8,600 mammograms

16,934 CT scans

1,841 MRIs

9,330 ultrasounds

380,174 lab tests

14,719 outpatient rehab therapy sessions (new in 2020)

159 orthopedic outpatient surgeries (new in 2015)

356 general outpatient surgeries (new in 2015)

Today PeaceHealth Peace Island employs 109 full-time caregivers and providers and eight visiting specialists. As proud as we are of our beautiful, award-winning facility, we know it is the people who work inside to carry on the PeaceHealth Mission who make it exceptional.

This includes an extraordinarily strong volunteer association. The Peace Island Volunteers held their first organizational meeting nine months before the hospital even opened and have played an integral role ever since. Their compassion, creativity, energy, talent and time help us bring better care to our patients and caregivers. We could not do what we do without them.

We are also honored to work with valued community partners, including San Juan Public Hospital District, the Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center and San Juan County Health & Community Services, to keep our community safe and healthy—including our most vulnerable and traditionally underserved neighbors.

PeaceHealth Peace Island is grateful to Islanders for entrusting us with their care, and proud of the progress we’ve made. We look forward to serving the community for many more decades to come!