Redefining Rural Care: Peace Island Medical Center
Residents of San Juan Island in Washington’s Puget Sound no longer require expensive helicopter service or slow ferry rides to access professional medical care. The 38,500-square-foot Peace Island Medical Center, with a total of 68 caregivers, now provides clinic access six days a week and 24-hour emergency care service seven days a week to this rural community.
The stunning setting of San Juan Island is treasured for the natural beauty of its hills, forests, inlets and wildlife. Yet until 2012, the island’s 7,000 residents lived with the poorest access to healthcare in Washington and had one of the highest rates of uninsured in the state. Procedures typically could require all-day excursions to the nearest hospital on the mainland and emergency care required air transport not covered by standard insurance. An outdated clinic — with insufficient funding and limited equipment — could not provide the services required by the island’s mostly senior population, which is twice the age of nearby Seattle’s King County.
In 2006, the clinic approached the San Juan Island Community Foundation for help in attaining status as a critical access hospital. As a CAH, the clinic would receive more reimbursement for treatment under Medicare, thereby stabilizing its funding and improving medical care options.
“We saw the opportunity to greatly improve local access to healthcare and significantly increase services in a financially sustainable way. Plus, we wouldn’t need to raise taxes,” said Foundation Board Chair Charles Anderson.