Island Hospital partners with Orcas Island to operate a primary care clinic

Submitted by Island Hospital

Beginning March 2021, Island Hospital (Skagit County Public Hospital District #2) will operate a single clinic providing primary, same day and after-hours services on Orcas Island. The partnership between Orcas Island Health Care District (OIHCD) and Island Hospital enables Orcas Island residents to continue receiving quality primary care in addition to expanding services through more community-based activities.

Island Hospital responded to OIHCD’s Request for Proposal in May, which identified the need for a partner that was willing to establish a single clinic in the District-owned facility, and one that was aligned with the vision to create more of a community-based model. The partnership was identified as a natural fit, as both entities are public hospital districts (PHDs) with experience treating rural residents. Currently, Island Hospital’s accessibility from the ferry terminal has provided a convenient way for Orcas residents to seek additional medical services beyond primary and preventive care. In the future, there is a desire to increase the convenience of travel and support residents who can end up stranded on the mainland following an air flight off island. While there is currently a grant to support the cost of lodging for those receiving cancer treatment, the goal is to create a customized model for Orcas residents traveling to Anacortes for higher levels of care.

“We are excited to enter into this partnership with the Orcas community to provide quality healthcare to our neighbors in the region. Island Hospital has a long history of serving Orcas residents and we look forward to continuing this partnership,” said Island Hospital CEO Charles Hall, MSN, MBA.

“Having spent my career designing and implementing healthcare models for unique populations, I understand the challenges we face in meeting the needs of a rural, remote community. I am excited we found a partner who is equally familiar with and committed to meeting those needs. Charles Hall and the Island Hospital leadership team have a strong commitment to quality and patient care. Their focus on ensuring patients receive care locally resonated with us, and it’s been evident in their actions. At various times this year I needed assistance with an islander left stranded in Anacortes and there was always someone to provide support. The team’s support was never more apparent than during the height of the pandemic. I look forward to working closely with Island Hospital as they begin the transition, and I am confident together we will create a sustainable healthcare model that will benefit the Orcas community for many years,” said OIHCD Superintendent Anne Presson, CEBS.

While this is not the first time Island Hospital has provided care on Orcas, the timing was right for a renewed partnership. Island Hospital has operated a clinic on Orcas over the years, and the most recent contract ended when UW Medicine took over in the summer of 2017. At that time, a PHD did not exist on Orcas and the community relied on philanthropy to cover gaps in funding. The instability of the privately funded financial model was recognized by everyone as being unsustainable, and that led to a successful campaign to adopt a PHD in April 2018. For the first time, passage of the PHD created a reliable funding source to subsidize healthcare on the island.

“Having been the Health Officer for San Juan County for 30 years I have seen many individuals and organizations come and go that provided healthcare services. I could not be more supportive of the return of Island Hospital to our community. I look forward to working with the new leadership at Island Hospital and am excited about the opportunity for them to run a single clinic on Orcas. Charles Hall, CEO, has been in his role for nearly a year, and I believe he has demonstrated a commitment to excellence and desire to serve this community for the long term,” said San Juan County Health Department Health Officer Frank James, MD.

“I wholeheartedly endorse the agreement made between OIHCD and Island Hospital to create a single unified practice in our medical center. I have been in practice here on Orcas for over 27 years, starting at the medical center shortly after it was built. At that time, the practice was managed by Island Hospital. I have been present for the two previous times Island Hospital withdrew from managing an Orcas medical practice. I can reassure the community that, for many reasons, this latest proposal is dramatically different. Thanks to OIHCD, there is now a secure funding source, an important element that was lacking previously. Another important change since we last worked with Island Hospital is that they brought on a new CEO almost a year ago, Charles Hall. Charles brings with him a strong background and is committed to creating a high-quality, sustainable medical practice here on Orcas and throughout the region,” said Orcas Family Health Center Medical Director David Shinstrom, MD.

Island Hospital’s leadership is committed to being engaged with the community and the various health care stakeholders. This includes developing a strong partnership between the clinic and emergency medical services (EMS), as well as interaction with the Orcas Community Foundation, Ray’s Pharmacy, the San Juan County Board of Health, and various other health care stakeholders at the County.

Details of the transition plan are being finalized, and both Boards are planning to provide regular updates to the Orcas community. For now, please refer to for additional stakeholder responses and ongoing updates. Island Hospital will also be developing an online presence to provide information, answer questions and offer insight into upcoming activities.