Hospital construction gets delayed by red tape
May 17, 2012
By Michele Mihalovich
Site grading for the new Snoqualmie Valley Hospital is completed, and architects and contractors are waiting in the wings for the go-ahead from the state, but a delay is holding up construction.
Hospital administrators had hoped to get an approved Certificate of Need, which costs $34,457, from the state’s Department of Health in April.
But a backlog in applications and appeals is holding up the process, said Mark Thomas, analyst for the Certificate of Need program.
State Rep. Jay Rodne, who also serves as attorney for the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital district, said a letter of intent was mailed to the state in October, and the application for the certificate was received by the state in November, with hope that the state would make a decision in early April.
But the state has asked for two extensions since that time, he said.
“We’ve tried to stress to them that we have a small window of opportunity to build because of a short construction season,” said Rodger McCollum, the hospital administrator.
The district sold the current hospital building and land to the Snoqualmie Tribe in July 2008 for $30 million, and the tribe is allowing the hospital to continue to operate in the building. The tribe is currently paying $100,000 a month and will pay the remaining balance in a balloon payment May 1, 2015, expected to come in at about $29 million.
“Under our agreement with the Snoqualmie Tribe, we can occupy the current hospital until our new hospital is completed,” Rodne said.
He said hospital administrators had expected an expedited process.
Thomas explained that Washington law allows some applications to get done faster than others.
For instance, if two kidney dialysis centers applied for an application in close proximity to each other, both of the applications would be considered at the same time, rather than on a first-come, first-served basis, and an analysis would be determined to see if that area needed two kidney dialysis centers, he said.
“With the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, the timeline is shorter because I don’t have to do a need analysis, and the public comment period is 20 days, rather than the standard 30 days,” Thomas said.
While Thomas said he couldn’t discuss the merit of the application, he did say he received several positive comments supporting the new hospital, and two negative comments — one from a community member and one from a Snoqualmie Valley Hospital board member.
Commissioner Gene Pollard wrote in his March 1, seven-page letter to the state, that the hospital is not necessary because of duplicated services with nearby Swedish/Issaquah, lack of community support and that the hospital isn’t financially able to take on such debt.
Thomas said the hospital was given 14 days to rebut the negative letters, which it did.
The remaining board commissioners — Dick Jones, Kevin Hauglie, David Speikers and Joan Young — responded March 14 with a 12-page letter with supporting documentation that refuted Pollard’s claims.
Thomas said he would take all of the comments into consideration when he conducts his analysis.
He said backlogs occurring in his department occasionally do happen with the small staff — four analysts and a supervisor, “but we fully expect to have a decision by the end of the month.”