Community News

An effort is under way on San Juan Island to build a small, $30 million hospital in Friday Harbor in conjunction with PeaceHealth, the non-profit owner of St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Bellingham.

The project is in the exploratory stages at the moment, but proponents say the current medical center building is aging and is too small to accommodate islanders’ needs. They say a hospital could provide many medical services for which islanders must now travel to the mainland.

Tom Cable, chairman of the community hospital committee, said about 30 islanders amonth go to mainland hospitals for colonoscopies. He added “I’m sure most of us would rather prep at home than at the Motel 6.”

The community hospital committee has asked the San Juan Public Hospital District Commission, which oversees the current medical center as well as the EMS services, to approve a non-binding letter of intent to clear the way for further talks with PeaceHealth on the feasibility of building a 10 bed hospital.

Proponents hope to get regulatory approval by the end of this year with construction to start next year. A hospital could open in early 2012.

The proponents say the hospital could be funded with $10 million in donations, $7 million from PeaceHealth and $13 million from a bond issue. PeaceHealth would assume all financial risk and take on management responsibilities. Any profits would go toward providing services to those who can’t afford care.