PORT TOWNSEND — During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jefferson Healthcare CEO Mike Glenn said he experienced his own kind of “Groundhog Day” every morning. Instead of hearing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” on the radio over and over again, it was bad news in the staffing update phone calls that kept repeating itself.
“It’s, ‘Here we go again,’” Glenn said of daily challenge of having to fill gaps in the hospital’s workforce. “There is an incredible group of nurses and nurse managers and house supervisors that just, day after day after day, solved one problem after another.”
Glenn said Jefferson Healthcare was still in the process of transitioning from being “laser-focused” on managing the COVID-19 crisis to focusing on construction of its $83,695,136 million modernization and expansion project at its Sheridan Street campus that will start in the fall.
Glenn made his remarks March 8 at a State of the Hospital presentation sponsored by The Chamber of Jefferson County at the Northwest Maritime Center.
Glenn has been CEO at Jefferson Healthcare since 2010. Peninsula Daily News reported in January that the Jefferson Healthcare Board of Commissioners approved raising Glenn’s pay from about $300,000 to $350,000, making him the highest-paid public employee on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“The last two years were exhausting,” Glenn said. “There were constantly changing policies and science and about one-fifth of our workforce was unavailable at any one time.”
Staff worked together to create a COVID isolation clinic, low-barrier PCR testing, mass vaccination clinics and a 1-800 nurse hotline.
“That was pretty hard to put together,” Glenn said of the nurse line. “But it also proved to be this incredibly helpful service.”
The campus modernization project will begin in September with the demolition of the 1965 building, which houses the express clinic, MRI and OB-GYN services. It was determined to be past its usable life and had seismic, structural and mechanical deficiencies.
Construction will begin the following month with the goal of being completed in the first quarter of 2025. The hospital will remain open during the 69 weeks of construction.
Glenn said the Emergency & Specialty Services Building (ESSB) building built in 2016 is already full, and there is no room to expand services like dermatology and oncology. The new building will be able to handle new speciality services such as neurology, pulmonology, and ear, nose and throat.
Jefferson Healthcare received $2.5 million in federal funding toward its cancer treatment project that will add radiation therapy to the diagnostic, surgical and chemotherapy services it already provides to patients. The Jefferson Healthcare Foundation has a goal of raising another $2.5 million toward the project.
“We have about 175 patients a year traveling four or five times a week for five to six weeks an hour one direction or the other for a 15-minute radiation therapy,” Glenn said. “We concluded that’s a service we could offer.”
Glenn said the addition of radiation therapy to the array of speciality services it already offers is consistent with its goals of striving to be “the highest performing, most clinically sophisticated critical access hospital in the country,” he said.
In addition to a 25-bed hospital, Jefferson Healthcare operates six rural health clinics, five primary care clinics, an express clinic and nine specialty service clinics, as well as Jefferson Healthcare Home Health and Hospice Service.
It is the county’s largest employer with 850 employees, 600 of whom are full-time, and generates an annual payroll of $75 million that injects $200,000 a day into the local economy.
Although dwarfed in size by corporate and other healthcare systems, Jefferson Healthcare is in a position to deliver a higher level of service and attention to patients than large and urban providers because its personnel listen to the people they serve and it is governed by a board elected by the community, Glenn said.
“We believe that local healthcare is better healthcare,” he said. “We believe healthcare should be governed by community representatives, informed by community needs, and shaped by community voices and the values they represent.”
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.