Christmas came early to Port Ludlow residents when Jefferson Healthcare CEO Mike Glenn announced Monday the plans to open a new clinic in Port Ludlow, triple the size of the existing facility.
Staff would be increased (main healthcare providers and specialists), radiology services would be upgraded and it would be telemedicine equipped.
"The operating costs of the new facility are already in our 2015 budget," Glenn said. Some in the audience seemed surprised when he added, "the project could start in first quarter 2015."
The clinic building would be constructed by Port Ludlow Associates (PLA), the company that owns the Port Ludlow residential and commercial development. It would be leased to Jefferson Healthcare, the public hospital district centered in Port Townsend, and serving East Jefferson County.
Glenn intends to ask the hospital district commission on Dec. 17 to authorize him to finalize negotiations with PLA.
Jefferson Healthcare opened a Port Ludlow clinic in 2011. Glenn began his presentation showing a graph of clinic usage, which started at 1,250 clinic visits and rose dramatically year-over-year until 2014. Port Ludlow clinic visits have plateaued at a projected 3,700 visits in 2014, Glenn noted. Hospital administrators diagnosed that the plateau is mainly a side-effect of the small size of the Oak Bay Road facility.
And, Glenn volunteered to the audience that the small facility has contributed to the failure of the Port Ludlow clinic to deliver on the 2011 intention to offer radiology services.
Glenn, who copresented the announcement with the hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. Joe Mattern, told the citizens the hospital officials were there to gather feedback and to gauge community support for the expansion plan. He said to the audience, "This is your chance to talk us out of it."
Under festoons of twinkling white Christmas lights from the wooden trusses in the main hall of the Bay Club, more than 100 Port Ludlow residents listened to a 45-minute presentation and then peppered Glenn and Mattern with a score of questions.
Also in the audience were Diana Smeland, president of Port Ludlow Associates (PLA), and five members of Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue, including Chief Brad Martin.
The new 3,500 square foot facility would be located in what Glenn light-heartedly referred to as the "Port Ludlow city center." Many in the audience laughed. Pointing to an aerial view of Port Ludlow's village center commercial district, Glenn indicated the new clinic would be located on the north corner of Paradise Bay Road and Breaker Lane, across the street from the Kitsap Bank branch office.
When asked by a resident if the hospital intends to continue using the old facility being leased at 9481 Oak Bay Road Glenn said, perhaps, but not as a primary care facility.
Glenn said as much as one-third of the new facility might be unused, initially, as the hospital tries to rotate-in specialists. He spoke enthusiastically about the plan for telemedicine, which would facilitate real-time consultations from the Port Ludlow clinic with specialists in Port Townsend, Kitsap County or even Seattle.
After the public meeting, both Glenn and PLA's Smeland told the Leader that the plan is for PLA to build the facility and lease it to Jefferson Healthcare. Both leaders declined to disclose a dollar value on the land or an estimated construction price tag. Both leaders also said talks regarding the new facility began 18 months ago.
Showing just how much has already been developed between the two organizations, one of Glenn's PowerPoint slides included three architect's "elevation" drawings and sketches of a spacious lobby including a fireplace.
As an aside, Glenn said the lobby would include a traditional check-in desk but he predicted "within five to 10 years, you'll be checking-in via a kiosk, like at Alaska Airlines."
Glenn said Port Ludlow clinic services would be calibrated to the needs of older patients.
Jefferson County has the oldest population per capita of any county in the state of Washington, he noted: 31 percent of county residents are 65 years of age or older. And that percentage is projected to increase to 35 percent in 10 years, Glenn noted.
Asked by a Ludlow resident if the clinic could offer a dermatologist, Glenn said that is a specialty that is in high demand and dermatologists are hard to recruit. He acknowledged the need.
Asked if the clinic would include a CT scan, Glenn said no. "A CT scan is hard to justify for under 10 to 12 scans a day."
Asked if the clinic could offer more physicians who accept Medicare payment, Glenn was reluctant to comment. He said that is a personal business decision for physicians, and whenever a hospital performs services at Medicare's discounted rates, the loss has to be subsidized by charging other patients more.
The most asked question about the new clinic was whether the new facility would increase availability of same-day services. Glenn conceded that's been a problem with the current facility due to needing more space. "Same-day walk-ins in Port Ludlow is one of the things we need to get better at," Glenn said.
Toward the end of the Q&A session, a resident suggested Glenn ask the audience for a show of hands as to how many of those present use the clinic. When Glenn asked, hands went up in a wave across the room, from front to back. Eventually more than half of the people in the audience raised a hand.
Glenn and Mattern seemed to get the support they sought.
When Glenn ended the meeting and thanked the audience, he received a healthy round of applause.