Progress is moving forward at Island Hospital to reopen all services and bring back all staff, but safety protocols are staying in place.

“We must learn to live with COVID while we are battling it,” said hospital CEO Charles Hall.

The hospital has ramped up its operations to about 50-60% of what they were before the onset of the the COVID-19 pandemic shut down non-emergency services in early March. By July, services should be up to about 80% of what they were, depending on how many people are making appointments.

“It comes down to how many people are comfortable coming back to the hospital,” Hall said. “We are open, clean and safe.”

The walk-in clinic is still closed, as is cardiac rehab. 

Staff will evaluate the walk-in clinic hours over the next few weeks to determine when that may reopen, he said.

For cardiac rehab, much of the treatment is exercise-based, so safety measures need to be expanded to protect against potential airborne germs, Hall said.

The hospital’s respiratory clinic, which was opened in response to COVID-19, is still being used to treat any patients with respiratory symptoms. It is also being used as a pre-screening location for anyone coming in for surgery, Hall said. 

Visitor limitations are still in place, but are being reviewed by hospital leadership.

Hall urged people not to avoid treatment. People have put off doctor visits and trips to the hospitals, even for serious conditions.

“We are starting to see sicker and sicker people,” he said.

Screenings at the entrances to the hospital are still in place, and masks are required at all times while on the hospital campus by both staff and patients, he said. 

With all the safety protocols in place, the hospital is a safe place to visit both for acute care and chronic conditions.

“We are ready to expand the reach of our health care system,” Hall said.

While there is no vaccine, the community as a whole needs to keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing to keep people safe, Hall said. That doesn’t change because things are opening back up.

Meanwhile the telemedicine options that allow for virtual visits in cases that are appropriate will remain available through many of the hospital’s primary care providers and specialty clinics, Hall said.

Island Hospital is working with Skagit County Public Health as it moves toward Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan, much like it is already doing with San Juan County, Hall said.

The temporary outdoor tents set up earlier this year to handle a potential influx of COVID-19 patients are being taken down this week, Hall said.

Hospital leaders remain “cautiously optimistic” about what the future holds, including increasing revenues at the hospital, he said. 

Island Hospital, a nonprofit hospital, made several million dollars less than budgeted over the past few months because of the shutdown.

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