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Chelan hospital to take another run at building new facility

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CHELAN — The Lake Chelan Community Hospital will try once again this November to win voter approval of a $19 million bond to replace its aging facility with a new $31 million hospital.

Hospital commissioners last week voted unanimously to go back to voters with the same plan that failed two years ago. As with the last proposal, the new hospital would be nearly twice the size of the current facility, and would be built on 12 acres in the Apple Blossom Center, which the hospital district bought in 2009.

When the bond request failed in August 2012, 57 percent of voters favored it, but a 60-percent favorable vote was needed. The hospital board hopes for a higher voter turnout by putting it on November’s general election ballot, said hospital CEO Kevin Abel.

Abel said coming back to voters because it’s the only responsible thing to do.

The plan includes borrowing money with the hospital’s debt capacity, relying on the hospital foundation and grants, and asking voters for less than two-thirds of the cost.

We had a financial analysis done by an accounting firm to see if there was any other way to do it,” he said. “This is the best way to get the project done.”

Abel said that the community has grown over the last four decades, and the 42-year-old hospital is no longer meeting the needs of the community.

The facility has a number of serious issues,” he said. They can’t fit wheelchairs in bathrooms on the lower floor. Heating and cooling systems need replacing. And the hospital needs private rooms instead of semi-private ones for better infection control.

We also feel it’s very important to physician-recruiting to had adequate facilities,” he said.

Abel said in addition to the community’s medical needs, a new hospital is important to its economic vitality.

As one of Chelan’s top employers, the hospital must survive into the future to continue to benefit the community, he said.

Attempting to engage the community in the effort, the hospital has been hosting a series of presentations on the proposal. Additional community forums are being planned, and community groups are encouraged to call to arrange a presentation for their meetings or gatherings.

Abel said the hospital board is hoping that with more community conversations and awareness, the bond to build a new hospital will be successful.

Reach K.C. Mehaffey at 509-997-2512 or . Read her blog An Apple a Day. follow her on Twitter at @KCMehaffeyWW.