San Juan County shares in the huge national problem of the baby boomer generation having contributed to markedly increased numbers of elderly people, many of whom are vulnerable to health problems and/or homelessness. The 85-bed Friday Harbor Life Care Center, which closed in 2017, provided 24-7 health care as well as a place to land for islanders with short-term needs. With that closure, we had a complete absence of any such facility for long-term care of residents of San Juan County.
We are fortunate, however, to have had the forward thinking and coordinated action displayed by the San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 under the leadership of Board Chair Anna Lisa Lindstrom, other Board commissioners, Superintendent Nathan Butler, and Deputy Superintendent Evan Perrollaz. They addressed this crisis by educating islanders about the critical vacuum in long-term care and successfully gaining public funding as part of a lid-lift in February, 2022. That funding allowed the Hospital District to purchase the Village at the Harbor, now the only assisted living facility on our island and in our county.
Progress since then has been remarkable:
• 5 rooms have been approved for Medicaid, which will be filled as they become available with Medicaid qualifying residents.
• A feasibility study has been completed by Faber Construction that has found that 16 additional Medicaid beds and 4 private pay beds can be added at the existing site.
• A new unsubsidized housing project is being planned for 32 apartments to provide housing for healthcare workers at Peace Health, EMS, Village at the Harbor, and future home care services.
Given these urgent needs, we can be thankful for the leadership of our Public Hospital District in stepping up to this challenge. They continue to lead in helping islanders to age in their homes through The Village at Home and through assisted living at the Village at the Harbor.
John Geyman, M.D.
Former member, San Juan County Board of Health
Practicing family physician at Inter Island Medical Center, 1990-1997