October is gone. WMC is in the SEARHC network now. But what does that mean?
If you were to walk into Wrangell Medical Center today, to have your candy-hangover monitored or just to say hi, you would see that the transition would have little-to-no impact on your patient experience. It means patient billing would start being processed by SEARHC. It would mean some employees will have different job titles. It would mean those employees will have SEARHC, and not the city, on the hook for their paychecks. Other than that, it's just like any other day.
SEARHC Executive VP Dan Neumeister has said, since the beginning, that the goal was always to provide the same services to the community. He has also went on record stating that the hospital will keep the WMC name.
Most importantly, Neumeister has been adamant that they're not going to swoop in and inject SEARHC operations into WMC. They've acknowledged that hospitals, like communities, are unique. SEARHC has said many times that they will look at WMC operations to see if SEARHC can take anything away to improve as a healthcare provider. For example, prior to the today, SEARHC has no Long Term Care experience. We're the only LTC in their network. With a few consecutive years of quality awards under our belt, our LTC will be a great foundation for SEARHC to learn from and build upon.
Now, the SEARHC signage may start popping up at the hospital soon. Patients will probably notice some building upgrades in the coming weeks to months, including flat screens advertising SEARHC promotions and upcoming events. Staff has already been treated to a much-needed new phone system and brand new computers. Let's not forget about the new hospital they promised, with a plan to break ground in the spring and cut the ribbon in late 2020.
But for now, it's the same ol' WMC. The same smiling staff offering the same services to the community. SEARHC is just signing the checks now.
Sometime this evening, the SEARHC Board will stamp the transaction with its final approval. Wrangell's voters and Assembly have already gave their approval. On Nov. 1st, WMC staff will have a new signer on their paychecks.
Aside from tweaking a couple job titles, it should remain largely business as usual at the hospital. WMC will continue to provide the same services with the same staff. Our island will continue offering a level of healthcare that small communities, like Wrangell, can usually only dream of.
So that leads to a big question. SEARHC is building us a new hospital. When will that new hospital be open for business? For that answer, let's dissect the timeline portion of the last design update.
If you were at the community update in September, what you saw was the latest schematic design. If you want to take a look at that presentation in pdf form, it can be viewed here. The architects from Wold will be back next week, continuing the Design Development phase - which they describe as "figuring out where the light switches and outlets are gonna' go." While it's obviously not that simple, it paints a pretty clear picture of how far along in the design process we actually are.
Design should be done by the end of the year. SEARHC has stated that they don't want to miss out on the construction season and will get this out to bid as soon as possible. That would mean breaking ground in the spring of next year.
If they are able to meet those mileposts, SEARHC is hoping to cut the ribbon on the new joint campus on Wood Street January of 2021. It has even been mentioned in public meetings that December of 2020 is an ideal date to start seeing patients in the new facility.
As part of the transition, SEARHC has taken on financial responsibility of the current WMC facility. As you may have heard, after 50 years of service, the hospital is on its last legs. Some would say it's cheating death, and it's just a matter of time before some big ticket items start to fail. Big ticket items that will no longer be the responsibility of the City and Borough of Wrangell. Those will get fixed using SEARHC's checkbook. Given that, expect SEARHC to keep moving forward to ensure the project adheres to the above timeline.
As the design of the new healthcare campus has evolved, some square footage has been added. Discussions with WMC staff has brought to light certain work-flow needs that needed to be considered, and Wold A&E has been working tirelessly to address any concerns in departmental design.
The most obvious area of addition, when looking at the floorplan, is the hallway connecting the Long Term Care wing with our mechanical area. This corridor will now house dietary and linen services, along with providing a straight shot from those areas to the shipping dock.
The byproduct of that addition is an open-air space, not quite the size of a basketball court, smack-dab in the center of the hospital area. This courtyard will serve many purposes, and is a design addition that provides much needed access to fresh air and natural light for the new complex.
Early conceptual designs had the hospital wing of the new campus looking less doughnut-like (bottom image) and more horseshoe-ish (top image). An open area was always in the plans, but as the new corridor was added, Wold insisted on leaving the open space for specific design purposes.
For one, the east-facing resident rooms in the LTC will be assured natural light from the courtyard. Secondly, the new dining room is set to have courtyard access, providing residents and guests a chance to eat outside if the weather permits, or to access the area for a walk and some fresh air. Also, the east entrance to the courtyard is for Physical Therapy access. PT patients have the option to take their walks outside in fair weather, rather than taking laps up and down the halls.
At the end of the day, it’s important to have green space. Wold knows the importance of providing the comforts of home. For our LTC residents, this is home. With little more than landscaping needed, the courtyard will by far produce the most bang for SEARHC’s buck, as far as the facility is concerned. Residents, patients, visitors and staff, will be guaranteed a safe space to get outside.
For more information, you can access the entire Sept. 17 design update here.
The impressive voter turnout and overwhelming support for Proposition 1 has Wrangell residents on the cusp of creating a sustainable, quality, healthcare solution.
More than 40 percent of registered voters showed up to the polls on Tuesday, October 2nd. Ninety-four percent of those casting ballots filled in the circle next to YES on Prop 1, ratifying Ordinance 948, which approved the transaction of WMC by SEARHC.
“Tuesday’s vote was a clear message that Wrangell residents understand the importance and value of expanding and improving access to quality healthcare services for our community," said Borough Manager Lisa Von Bargen. “We are elated to have the opportunity to move forward in our relationship with SEARHC on behalf of the community."
SEARHC will operate WMC at its current location, while constructing a new healthcare campus adjacent to the AICS Clinic. The joint campus will include a critical access hospital and long-term care facility, in addition to existing clinic services.
“Working with CBW and WMC to create excellent and accessible services for the long term is in concert with SEARHC’s mission," said SEARHC President & CEO Charles Clement. “The health of our patients and community is vital, and by building a comprehensive campus, expanded services will be available to respond to their changing healthcare needs."
The City and Borough of Wrangell, WMC and SEARHC have been working together this last year to identify options for a community healthcare solution. The SEARHC Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on the transaction on October 26th, with November 1st scheduled to be the day in which WMC employees become SEARHC employees.
“Wrangell voters have taken their healthcare future into their own hands by voting in support of WMC merging with SEARHC," stated Clement. "“We are energized by the overwhelming support of Wrangell voters.”
So the voters turned out yesterday. Specifically, the YES voters turned out.
The City and Borough of Wrangell released preliminary results of the ballot last night, and with just a little over 100 absentee and questionable ballots left to count, Proposition 1 is going to pass handily - 583 voting in favor, to just 32 voters opposed.
The results of the election are scheduled to be certified on Thursday, Oct. 4. After one final nod by the SEARHC Board on Oct. 26, it's a done deal. SEARHC will assume operations of WMC and move forward with construction of a new hospital facility.
Thank you to all of the residents who showed up at the polls.