The Lake Chelan Valley is at a crossroads in terms of its health care. A YES vote for the new hospital will sustain the existing level of health care we have enjoyed for decades. A NO vote supports the continued use of our current facility and a likely draw down in current services.
Hospital staff and commissioners have recognized for over a decade that the current facility was insufficient to meet the valley’s health care needs. Time and again, the commissioners have proposed hospital expansion plans to the community based upon this need.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The first attempt to gain community support for a larger facility occurred in 2006. The $33 million plan called for a dramatic remodel of the existing facility. The hospital enjoyed revenue of $12.5M in 20061 and growing pains were being felt in all departments.
Following an unsuccessful vote, the Commissioners reached out to the community in a series of listening groups. The message they received was clear: Don’t waste funds building on a hillside. Build a new hospital elsewhere that offers more options for growth in the future. Based on this input, the Commissioners purchased 12 acres at Apple Blossom Center in 2008.
Since then, votes were taken to build a new hospital in 2012 and again in 2014. In both attempts, most the community supported the levies, but not by the required 60%. Since then, the hospital staff has continued to care for the building, but the aging infrastructure (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and sewer) has grown weaker and less reliable.
Despite cramped quarters, the hospital staff has continued to deliver excellent care and hospital services have expanded. By 2016, a decade after the first vote, annual revenues for Lake Chelan Community Hospital had more than doubled to $27 million.2
Given this sustained growth, in 2017 the Commissioners again chose to ask the community to support a new and expanded hospital. The $20 million levy would support just under a half of the $44.5 million facility.
INVESTING IN THE CURRENT FACILITY – AN UNWISE ALTERNATIVE
Should the levy pass, the hospital faces an encouraging and stable economic future. Based upon its existing strong vital signs, its stable business model, and our growing community, the hospital will be well positioned to continue to deliver high-quality care to our valley’s residents and guests.3
Should the levy fail, our community hospital will be required to invest millions in the existing facility.4 These investments would address only infrastructure issues and offer no improvement to patient care. This is analogous to a growing family installing a new engine and transmission in its old sedan. The car has better reliability, but it still continues to be too small for mom, dad, and the three kids – to say nothing of the baby on the way.
Our community hospital needs more space if it wants to continue to deliver babies and offer other vital patient services. To deny this need, to vote NO on the levy, would result in an unwise investment in a too-small and outdated hospital.
SHRINKING SERVICES – AN UNWISE ALTERNATIVE
Opponents to the NewHospitalNow campaign would prefer to stay in our present hospital and shrink services. Called a “Stabilize and Ship” model, their vision would outsource much of our current health care to Wenatchee. Out-patient surgeries that have been profitable for the hospital would be outsourced to Wenatchee (and of course, in-patient surgeries as well).
Additionally, babies would no longer be delivered in the Lake Chelan valley. All maternity care, labor, and delivery would be done in Wenatchee. How many babies might be born on 97A because their parents can’t make it to Wenatchee in time to deliver in a safe environment?
And what happens when Wenatchee can’t absorb all of our patients? Central Washington Hospital is increasingly on diversion and not able to accommodate all of our patients who require transfer now.
Financially, this Stabilize and Ship (Less Services) model offers no savings in terms of operations. As a community, we would have fewer services but pay the same or more in taxes.5 In fact, we’d likely have to invest heavily in our EMS services because far more ambulances and paramedics/EMTs would be required to be constantly available for out of town transfers. When an ambulance and its crew are out of service because they are transferring a patient, we need back up crews to be on duty in town to respond to emergencies. When Wenatchee is on diversion, then our ambulances could be transporting patients to Seattle, Moses Lake, or Spokane – taking them out of service for longer and longer periods of time. Transport by air (helicopter or plane) is only available when medically required, not just because of long distances.
Furthermore, it would inflict a deep blow to our local economy. The hospital is the leading employer of living-wage jobs in the valley. One-third of these jobs would be eliminated by shrinking services to fit a Stabilize and Ship model.
If our community were stagnating, the ”Less Services” model could make sense. Or if the hospital was on shaky financial footing, it also might make sense. But our valley is growing and our hospital is sound financially and has a bright future.6 In light of these positive financial signs, a No vote to shrink hospital services would be an unwise choice.
Our hospital is in dire need of more space. The need to build a new hospital has never been more acute. Opponents’ propose to shrink our hospital and outsource our health care to Wenatchee, but current growth and financial trends support the creation of a new hospital. We can’t afford to wait any longer.
Please vote YES on April 25th
1 Washington State Auditor’s Office – Report No. 74149
2 LCCH CEO
3 Pillar Three Link
4 See Option 1 of Health Care Collaborative Study (link: http://lakechelancommunityhospital.com/wp- content/uploads/2016/09/Comparative-Analysis-of-Facility-Costs.pdf)
5 2015 Audit Reports – LCCH & CMC