KVH returns to voters in August with general obligation bond

GOLDENDALE, WASHINGTON  – On August 3rd, residents in Klickitat Valley Health’s public hospital district will have another opportunity to vote on a general obligation bond that would fund significant improvements to its Goldendale community hospital.

The District’s bond proposal in the November 2020 General Election received 56.6% approval from voters, 178 votes short of the 60% super majority required to pass.

The project – Strong Healthcare, Strong Community – aims to ensure the families and individuals within the public hospital district can continue to count on safe, quality care well into the future.

“This is our generational obligation – to ensure our hospital continues to be the best place in our region to receive emergency & primary medical care. There are a lot of competing needs – this is one where we are compelled to step up. It is a priority we must not postpone and cannot ignore,” said Connie Pond, President of the KVH Board of Commissioners.

“We are bringing this to the voters for the third time even as we respond to the worst public health crisis in a century. There is no doubt as to KVH’s vital importance in this pandemic. This proposal, carefully crafted over the past 36 months, responds to our District’s health and medical needs now, and prepares us for what’s to come.”

The 25-year-bond would translate to an average of $0.68 per $1,000 of assessed home value per year for a $15.3 million total. A homeowner with a $200,000 home in the health systems’ district, for example, would pay an average of $11.33 per month, totaling $136 per year over the life of the bond. This will replace the bond that expired in 2020, which funded the expansion of the Emergency Department, Diagnostic Imaging and created the shell space that KVH completed for the Wellness & Therapy Center. The previous bond, passed in 2000, was $1.43 per $1,000 of assessed home value. 

“The needs haven’t changed. While the facility continues to age, inflation rates continue to drive up construction costs,” said Leslie Hiebert, CEO of Klickitat Valley Health.

The Strong Healthcare, Strong Community proposal includes three primary efforts: new facilities for Surgery and Acute Care, and bringing Long Term Care beds to the county. “The current Surgery and Acute Care units are part of the original facility built in 1949 and an addition in 1966. Its aging infrastructure and limited space impacts operations as well as the District’s ability to grow core health services and recruit new providers,” said Dr. Dennis Carver, KVH Board Commissioner. “New surgical facilities would allow us to expand. We could perform surgeries such as total knee and total hip replacements right here in Goldendale.”

The Acute Care and Surgery Wing represents the largest and most visible aspect of the new proposal. The two-story, 24,000 square foot addition would also have shell space on the bottom floor for future development. “As a frame of reference, the new county building constructed in Goldendale is three stories and 38,000 square feet,” noted Hiebert.

“KVH is a critically important resource for all Central Klickitat County Residents. Our facilities need the improvements that this bond will pay for and if approved, this bond will enable KVH to provide essential medical services for generations to come. We need to make sure this vital community resource is maintained to modern standards,” said Mark Sigfrinius, KVH Board Commissioner.

“Modernizing and improving the facilities of KVH is good not just for the health of our community, but the health of our economy as well. These improvements are necessary for delivering safe, high-quality care, while enhancing the hospital’s ability to adopt innovative technology as it emerges.”

With the construction of a new wing to house Surgery and Acute Care, the current patient care wing would be retrofitted for much-needed Long Term care beds. The Washington Depart of Health identified a need for 180 long term care beds in Klickitat County;  currently there are none.

“Long term care beds are crucial for providing a level of care to our aging populations that many families cannot offer to their loved ones,” said Hiebert. “Access to a level of care that meets these unique needs can determine if families remain together, or if their loved ones will have to move miles away.”

“Those we serve for Long-Term Care will benefit from our current Acute Care wing that will be specifically retrofitted for their needs, which includes 24/7 access to all KVH services including emergency care, nursing, imaging, surgery, therapy and pharmacy – all under one roof.”

The COVID-19 pandemic over the last 17 months put a spotlight on the critical importance of local healthcare, especially in rural communities. With pandemic care now predominantly in the vaccination phase, KVH was at the heart of the public health effort from the beginning.

“Like the prevention efforts that continue, the vaccination rollout has been designed locally and managed collaboratively within the county,” said Hiebert.

“When leadership and resources are deployed locally, it fosters great cohesion and trust. When strong, collaborative relationships exist between government, business and community, we can accomplish nearly anything.”

KVH has fostered those relationships through community outreach, digital communications and community input sessions. Concerns raised by the community during the previous bond campaigns have been a focus for the District over the last three years.

“We listened!,” said Hiebert. “We have our new Meditech EMR (Electronic Medical Record) with updated billing launching in July. We increased access to core services through the addition of ExpressCare and Telehealth. Our Emergency Department is now staffed by hospital employed or independent contracted Providers.

“We added specialists in our Behavioral Health Program, including a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner qualified for medication management and a Substance Use Disorder Specialist who works with our MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) in helping people regain their lives.”

As KVH continues to expand essential medical and mental health services for the community, having infrastructure and facilities that allow medical staff to perform their life saving work is an integral part of the Master Facilities Plan for the hospital. The Acute Care Wing and Surgery are the only two services that are still part of construction dating back five to seven decades.  

“We have recently added a talented Surgeon, a Gynecologist, a Wound Care Clinic, and have been interviewing Orthopedic Surgeons. Our operating rooms could use updating and expansion. We need good surgeons and physicians in our community who will stay,” said Dr. Michael Garnett, long-time KVH Physician.

“It does not work to have good surgeons and physicians and aging facilities. It does not work well for either the patients or for the Physicians and Surgeons. Upgrading the facility has an effect on the care by attracting providers who provide the services we want and with excellence. We all want excellent care- this bond will be a big step to get us there in more ways than one.”