Below is a Press Release from Island Hospital announcing the culmination of many months of hard work and negotiations between OIHCD and Island Hospital. More to come from the OIHCD with details on this new partnership. For now, we wanted to share this update and initial responses from other health care stakeholders throughout the County. We would also like to thank the UW Medicine leadership, UW Orcas Clinic and OFHC for their service to the community and support throughout this process. We look forward to working together to ensure a smooth transition.
ANACORTES, Washington – Beginning March 2021, Island Hospital (Skagit Public Health District #2) will operate a single clinic providing primary, same day and after-hours services on Orcas Island.
Island Hospital responded to OIHCD’s Request for Proposal in May, which identified the need for a partner that was aligned with the vision to create more of a community-based model. The partnership was identified as a natural fit, as both entities are public health districts (PHDs) with experience treating rural residents. Island Hospital’s accessibility from the ferry terminal is also a plus for Orcas residents who may need additional medical services beyond primary and preventative care. In looking ahead, there is a desire to increase services beyond the free taxi rides to and from the ferry terminal, which will include a concierge model for residents traveling to Anacortes for higher levels of care.
“We are excited to enter into this partnership with the Orcas community. Island Hospital has a long history of serving Orcas residents and we look forward to continuing this partnership” said Island Hospital CEO Charles Hall, MSN, MBA.
“Having spent my career designing and implementing health care models for unique populations, I understand the challenges we face in meeting the needs of a rural, remote community. I am excited we found a partner who is equally familiar with and committed to meeting those needs. Charles Hall and the Island Hospital leadership team have a strong commitment to quality and patient care. Their desire to serve the region has been evident every time I needed assistance with an islander in need, and their support was never more apparent than during the height of the pandemic. I look forward to working closely with Island Hospital as they begin the transition, and I am confident together we will create a sustainable health care model that will benefit the Orcas community for many years,” said OIHCD Superintendent Anne Presson, CEBS.
While this is not the first time Island Hospital has provided care on Orcas, the timing was right for a renewed partnership. Island Hospital has operated a clinic on Orcas over the years, and the most recent contract ended when UW Medicine took over in the summer of 2017. At that time, a PHD did not exist on Orcas and the community relied on philanthropy to cover gaps in funding. The instability of the privately-funded financial model was recognized as being unsustainable. That led to a successful campaign, and the community overwhelmingly voted to create a PHD on Orcas in April 2018, providing a more reliable funding source for healthcare to Orcas Island residents.
“I wholeheartedly endorse the agreement made between OIHCD and Island Hospital to create a single unified practice in our medical center. I have been in practice here on Orcas for over 27 years, starting at the medical center shortly after it was built. At that time, the practice was managed by Island Hospital. I have been present for the two previous times Island Hospital withdrew from managing an Orcas medical practice. I can reassure the community that, for many reasons, this latest proposal is dramatically different. Thanks to OIHCD, there is now a secure funding source, an important element that was lacking previously.
Another important change since we last worked with Island Hospital is that they brought on a new CEO almost a year ago, Charles Hall. Charles brings with him a strong background and is committed to creating a high quality, sustainable medical practice here on Orcas and throughout the region. I have met with Charles many times throughout this process, and I am confident in his sincerity and vision. I encourage everyone in the community to participate in the planned community meetings over the next several months to see for yourself what is coming and express any concerns. The goal is to have a community supported medical practice which can only be achieved if you get involved,” said Orcas Family Health Center Medical Director, David Shinstrom, MD.
Island Hospital and OIHCD are finalizing the details of the transition, which will include consolidation of two primary care clinics into one. The services that will be provided include primary, same-day and after-hours care, as well a partnership with Chief Williams of Orcas Island Fire & Rescue. The Chief has been an integral part of the discussions throughout the process, and there will be a strong collaboration between the clinic and emergency medical services (EMS).
Having been the Health Officer for San Juan County for 30 years now I have seen many individuals and organizations come and go that provided healthcare services. I could not be more supportive of the return of Island Hospital to our community. For many years they provided quality primary care on both Orcas and Lopez. In the face of significant financial challenges, Island Hosptial remained committed to providing excellent care to this remote region over many years. As we faced unprecedented challenges from COVID-19, Island Hospital was in regular contact with leadership throughout the county to ensure we had the resources necessary to meet the needs of the community.
I look forward to working with the new leadership at Island Hospital and am excited about the opportunity for them to run a single clinic on Orcas. Charles Hall, CEO, has been in his role for nearly a year, and I believe he has demonstrated a commitment to excellence and desire to serve this community for the long term. Frank James, MD, Health Officer San Juan County Health Department.
Our new affiliation with Island Hospital is exciting! Over the years, they have been the party working most closely with the Orcas community. Previously, taxes from their hospital district and no contribution from a tax district here, posed troublesome issues. Now, our hospital district finances provide a whole new dynamic to our relationship. Our commissioners have secured many services that islanders have been without for a too many years. Our medical future looks bright! Anthony Giefer, MD, Medical Director (retired) Orcas Medical Center/Island Hospital (2012-2017).
It has been a long process since the formation of our Hospital District which has ended with a contractual agreement with Island Hospital for delivery of healthcare needs unique to our island community. I commend the Commissioners and the Superintendent for their perseverance, due diligence with consultations with various entities, negotiations with UW Medicine, OFHC, and IH. I trust that this association will serve our unique rural medical needs as we move forward. I suspect that there are those with a historical perspective that are skeptical of this agreement. Two previous relationships with IH were found to be unsatisfactory for various reasons, but the playing field has now changed. First, we passed a Public Hospital District levy that provides guaranteed and sustainable income, and second, IH has new administrative leadership who have been receptive and supportive of our needs. I am optimistic that our future healthcare on Orcas will benefit us all. Dale Heisinger, MD and former Chair of the Coalition for Orcas Health Care
As the San Juan County Council member representing Orcas Island, as well as a local business operator involved in health care, I’m thrilled to hear of the new relationship between the Orcas Island Health Care District and Island Hospital. It will be nice to have one point of contact for medical services, and a strong partnership with an organization that understands the needs of our rural community. I am also encouraged Island Hospital will eventually be looking to rotate their specialists through the new Clinic on Orcas, increasing convenience for islanders while looking to create a concierge model to provide a more white glove level of service when traveling off island for care.
I’ve been impressed with the new Island Hospital CEO, Charles Hall, and feel he will do his best to treat every island patient with the best possible care available. He has a kind heart and clear vision for the future of the region. I feel that his expertise will be crucial as we work to provide rural health care to our remote community.
Thank you to the OIHCD Commissioners and their Superintendent, Anne Presson, for the will to pivot and make hard decisions to chart a new path. Rick Hughes, San Juan County Council Member, District 2 and Owner, Ray’s Pharmacy.
The Orcas Community Resource Center fully supports the decision of the OIHCD to execute an Agreement with Island Hospital to operate a single clinic on Orcas Island. We are excited Island Hospital will be working with us to understand our needs and bring their Integrated Behavioral Health Program to Orcas. This will provide the community with a much-needed increase in mental and behavioral health services.
I commend the OIHCD for their hard work, and I am very hopeful for the long-term success of a single clinic and its ability to meet the needs of all the members of our community with financial sustainability. Erin O’Dell, Executive Director Orcas Community Resource Center.
I am grateful for the deep diligence that the commissioners invested in reaching this decision. A unified clinic with expanded services will improve access and community health. Hilary Canty, Executive Director Orcas Island Community Foundation.
I am glad OIHCD has reached an agreement with Island Hospital to provide quality health care on Orcas. A unified medical practice can achieve critical financial savings, consistently better care, and improved coordination of medical services. This partnership is an opportunity for OIHCD and Island Hospital to demonstrate earnest responsiveness to our community and employ local primary care providers whenever possible. Tom Eversole, former Coordinator for Hearts and Hands at Orcas Senior Center.