COVID-19 in Skagit County

Source: Skagit County Public Health

By Briana Alzola

Island Hospital has been cleared to begin reopening its clinics and elective services.

Gov. Jay Inslee in a Monday announcement gave the green light to the hospital, which shut down all nonessential services in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Certain safety measures already in place will continue to be required.

It isn’t as simple as opening the doors, however. All services will now reopen based on volume, hospital CEO Charles Hall said.

Hospital staff is reaching out to patients who may have had their schedules interrupted to set appointments. As the volume returns, the hospital will work to bring back all of the staff members who have been unable to work while services were closed.

That process will take some time, Hall said.

The hospital has seen large losses in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, as have other medical and dental offices around the state.

“COVID has changed the face of medicine,” Hall said. “It will be with us for quite some time.”

Leadership continues to require screening at each entrance for symptoms of COVID-19, including temperature screenings to check for fever, Hall said. Right now, masks are required while on the hospital campus and visitors are still limited, though the limits on visitors is under review by hospital leaders, he said.

The reopening of elective services comes after the hospital started to open back up to semi-urgent services in 

early May.

Interim COO Ann Raish talked about that ramp up at the hospital board meeting last week.

Starting things back up can’t be looked at as “flipping a switch,” Raish said at the meeting. Instead, it’s more like “turning a dial.”

“We’ve been lost in COVID for a long time, but I’m excited to get back to growing,” Hall said at the meeting.

National surveys have shown people aren’t necessarily comfortable to immediately return to services, Raish said. The hospital staff is working on Facebook posts and outreach to try to combat any ideas that the hospital is not a safe place to be, Raish said.

The hospital is emphasizing safety in its messaging and making it clear that all precautions are in place. It’s safe to come back and see doctors for semi-urgent procedures, Raish said.

Adding services or expanding clinics is a way to help the hospital recover financially, she said.

CFO Elise Cutter, who will soon take over as COO, talked about the impact COVID-19 has had on the hospital and its income.

For the past couple months, the hospital has taken in roughly half of what it had budgeted. It’s also spending much more on COVID-related expenses, such as tents, extra supplies, ventilators and extra training, Cutter said.

As of right now, cash on hand has stayed fairly stable because the hospital still had revenue coming in from procedures that were done before the pandemic. The drop-off in revenue from procedures will continue to be felt over the next few months, until services ramp up again.

“Now that we are starting up more elective procedures, we can get that cash flow up again,” Cutter said.

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