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Snoqualmie Hospital to reopen in January

SNOQUALMIE _ After two years in the waiting, the Snoqualmie

Valley Hospital will reopen sometime in January, a hospital district official

announced Monday.

The details are currently being worked out, with permits being

filed and tasks assigned. There is much to do to get the hospital open again,

but surprisingly, a grand opening should occur shortly after Jan. 1, said

Jeff Lyle, King County Hospital District 4 superintendent.

The entity that the district partnered up with for reopening

is called Snoqualmie Regional Hospital (SRH), a non-profit organization

that will lease the facility and its beds.

The organization was formed by Northwest Care, an

assisted-living company based on Brainbridge

Island, for the sole purpose of operating the hospital.

The hospital district is currently negotiating with Northwest Care

to develop the hospital's campus. This will fulfill the master site plan

developed by the community advisory board set up in the early 1980s.

The plan will include an 85-bed assisted-living facility and a few medical

buildings. Extending Ethan Wade Way to provide better access to the hospital

is also in the company's plans.

Lyle sees the expansion as a positive move that will benefit Valley

residents in the area of health care.

"We'll also be creating jobs and providing an assisted-living

community. It will be a symbiotic relationship," between the hospital and

the Valley, she said.

The partnership between SRH and the hospital district was formed

just in time. The hospital's "certificate of need," a document displaying

intent to operate, expires Dec. 31 of this year. If no agreement had been reached

by the deadline, the building would have stood vacant and would have

been unable to open as a hospital, pending another certificate of need process.

To start out with, the facility will offer a number of outpatient

services, such as physical therapy, outpatient day surgery, physical and

emotional care for the elderly and more in-depth check-ups for Valley residents

with conditions like asthma or pneumonia, which don't require surgery.

At first, the hospital will not have an emergency room, act as an

emergency clinic or provide obstetric services. Patients will need to be

admitted by their doctors and health practitioners — it's not a walk-in setup.

When the demand arises in the future, as Lyle said he expects it

to, more services will be added.

By the expansion of services and the construction of the other

medical facilities on campus, Lyle sees this re-opening as being the hospital's last.

The hospital was built and opened in 1983, and was operated by the

Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace until 1993. In 1994, the hospital district

re-opened the facility and ran it until June of 1997, when it closed once again.

"There were a number of factors [in its closing], a major one being

financial," Lyle said.

Since then, district officials have sought a partnership with a health

organization that would lease the building and provide viable hospital

services for Valley residents.

Lyle was hired in 1998 as the superintendent to "tie up loose ends,"

he explained, and find another use for the facility.

But the new district official didn't want to give up hope on bringing

plans for the hospital alive again.

The board of hospital district commissioners also met at least once

a month for two years to find a solution for the vacant hospital. Members

include Fritz Ribary, North Bend; Cynthia Johnson, Fall City;

Dick Jones and Joan Young, Carnation; and Carol Hoch, from Snoqualmie.

"And it's not a thankful job,

either," Lyle said. "They've taken a lot of

grief from the community about the closure of the hospital."

"None of the incumbent [hospital district] commissioners have

accepted their state-authorized stipend for the last two years because they felt

it wasn't right to be paid for this," Lyle added, explaining that the

stipend would have been approximately $1,000 per commissioner, per year.

For the past two years, Lyle has worked with 11 companies,

ranging from cancer treatment centers a bariatric surgery company.

For various reasons, the proposals did not work out.

This fall, a plan was finally worked out with SRH.

Now, Lyle hopes the past is behind the Valley and the future will

hold great things for the hospital.

"[We're going to] offer a lot of what the community advisory

committee saw in their vision in the early 80s, late 70s, back when this

[hospital] was planned," he said.

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