By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Olympic Medical Center’s hydrotherapy pool will remain open for at least the rest of this year, hospital officials announced amid public applause Wednesday afternoon.
The heated pool at the Olympic Medical Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation clinic at 321 N. Chambers St. in Port Angeles was scheduled to close for financial reasons Sept. 1.
OMC officials cited the $50,000 replacement of the pool liner and ongoing operating losses as reasons to close the pool during a well-attended board meeting last month in which commissioners heard pleas to keep the pool open.
Dr. Scott Kennedy, OMC chief medical officer, announced at a work session Wednesday that an anonymous donor has pledged to match $25,000 in other donations to replace the liner.
“We plan to keep the pool open after reconsideration, careful review of the input that we’ve had and in view of the community interest and the importance of this pool,” Kennedy said.
“We’ve always recognized it as very important, but basically what we’re going to do is, we’re going to work to support the pool, since unfortunately in the current environment, the pool dynamics don’t work to support the program,” he added.
By restructuring pool management and working to increase volumes, OMC officials hope to keep the pool open through 2015, too.
‘Give it our very best try’
“We will work to re-engineer things and give it our very best try,” Kennedy said.
“That’s the work of the months ahead here.”
Nine public speakers thanked hospital officials for reconsidering the Sept. 1 closure, several of whom explained why the 94-degree pool is important to them.
The next closest hydrotherapy pool is in Silverdale.
“I’ve been so proud of OMC that they’ve had this facility,” Suzanne McCoy told the board.
“It’s gotten me through two knee surgeries, and it’s tremendous. It cut my recovery time in half. It’s such a wonderful resource for this hospital to have.”
Commissioner Jean Hordyk, who has used the hydrotherapy pool in the past, thanked OMC staff for “really taking this seriously.”
Hordyk and other commissioners last month said they understand the challenges of aquatic therapy in a cooler public pool.
William Shore Memorial Pool in Port Angeles is kept about 10 degrees cooler than the OMC therapy pool.
In a June letter to aquatic therapy patients, OMC officials said the therapists and referring providers would begin to transition to land-based therapies or programs offered at William Shore Memorial Pool in Port Angeles.
“We really appreciate the input that we’ve received about the pool since reconsidering whether to keep the pool open, again, from patients, from our therapists, from our staff and also from potential donors and supporters in the community from that perspective as well,” Kennedy said.
“We join you in believing that the pool therapy program is a very important service for Olympic Medical Center to offer.
“What we want to do is we want to work hard to see if we can vastly improve the economics that would allow that program to continue.”
Kennedy added: “We think it will take a few months to know if we can do this, but we’re very determined and committed to trying that.”
A pool fundraiser is planned for Aug. 23 at Barhop Brewing in downtown Port Angeles. No time or other details are scheduled yet.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.