Hospital Board Pausing Construction

Chelan Hospital Board approves pausing new hospital for Six months

February 26, 2020

The Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics (LCCHC) Board of Commissioners voted to pause design and construction of the new hospital project for 6-months and then reevaluate finances.  The Board of Commissioners held a special board meeting on February 11, 2020 to discuss solutions focused on improving the hospitals overall finances and operations.  The hospital has had a continued decline in revenues over the past year related to lower inpatient and outpatient volumes, physician and employee turnover, slower collections and reduced reimbursements.  At this time the hospital has the funds to build the hospital; however, it does not have the funds to pay for the “mortgage” once the hospital is built. “It is an emotional issue and we have to strip away the emotion to make a good decision” said George Rohrich.

The Board was presented with findings from a review conducted by Quorum Health Resources (QHR) at the Feb. 11, 2020 special Board meeting.  QHR is a national organization aimed at helping small rural hospitals improve financial stability through a customized management plan focused on a variety of systems like compliance review, revenue cycle reimbursement and market review.  After QHR’s presentation, it was recommended that the hospital consider delaying hospital construction for one year.  The Board tasked CEO George Rohrich in negotiating a contract with QHR for review and possible approval at the Feb. 25th, 2020 Board meeting.

During the regularly scheduled Board meeting on Tuesday February 25, 2020, the board approved delaying hospital construction and design for six months and then review finances.  The hospital and Board of Commissioners will continue to monitor and focus on improving hospital revenues.  Currently, the Board did not approve a contract with QHR. The Board discussed and approved to obtain one additional proposal at which time a special Board meeting will be held to review the proposals.

What happens to the community tax dollars slated for the new hospital?

  • Tax dollars for the new hospital project are restricted funds that can only be used for the new hospital project.
  • Some of those funds have been used for design and architect fees related to the new hospital project.
  • The remaining funds are held in an account at Chelan County Treasures Office. Be assured that your tax dollars are accounted for and audited yearly.

What is the impact of delaying six months?

  • Allows LCCHC the opportunity to review and focus on improving revenues.
  • There is no impact to the approved USDA loan.
  • A 6-12-month delay may have an added expense of $187K-199K as well as an inflation rate.
  • May allow for better construction bidding.

Board Chair, Phyllis Gleasman says the board took their decision very seriously. “Today was a very long decision-making time and if it takes 6-months or so to get back on our feet, we’ll do that”.

2020 New Years Baby

Lake Chelan Hospital’s First Baby of the Year!

January 6, 2020

We’ve been waiting all year for the New Year’s baby and he has arrived.  Gael Robles Sierra was born Saturday January 4th, 2020 at Lake Chelan Community Hospital.  It is an exciting start to the New Year for the proud first-time parents.  Gael was born at 13:15 p.m. Saturday.  He was 20.47 inches and weighed 8 pounds 7 ounces.

Silvestre Robles Ramirez and Ximena Sierra Oliveros have been living in the Lake Chelan Valley for about five years.  When asked if they were nervous, Ximena said “Yes, we are nervous because we are new parents, but are happy to have friends and family to help us along the way.”

Dad, Silvestre Robles said the baby was due Monday, but because Ximena was having strong and painful contractions Friday evening, they decided to go to the hospital. “Watching the birth of my son is a feeling I can’t explain,” said Silvestre.  The new parents were filled with joy and excitement to be told that Gael was the first baby of the year at Lake Chelan Community Hospital and received the generous New Year’s Baby basket donated by Lake Chelan

Chelan hospital Board approves schematic design concept for new building

The Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics (LCCHC) Board of Commissioners voted to accept the schematic design concept for the new hospital building at a special Board meeting Oct. 1. The approval allows the team to continue forward with specific design development, explained Mike Ellis, LCCHC Interim CEO.

The LCCHC Board Facilities Steering Committee worked closely with architects and the general contractor to ensure patient needs are met in the new building, Ellis said. Increased construction costs made it difficult, but the new hospital is designed to stay within the $44.5 million budget approved by voters in 2017.

Project manager Dick Bratton, Kreg Shelby from Bouten Construction, and Keith Null and Jamey Barlet from CollinsWoerman, the project’s architect firm, attended the special Board meeting to present the revised design concept and answer questions. “These men have done a remarkable job,” said Mary Signorelli, one of two LCCHC Commissioners on the LCCHC Board Facilities Steering Committee.

Key priorities for the architects were preserving patient and staff safety, quality of care, and client care areas, said Barlet, who met often with hospital staff during the design phase. The approved schematic design, which keeps the overall building footprint as tight as possible, has two wings for patient rooms. The 59,250 square foot building will include 23 private patient beds, two operating rooms suites and a procedure room. The Emergency Department, which will be larger than what exists in the current hospital building, will have seven rooms as well as space for triage. The master plan leaves room on the site for a future EMS and medical office building.

Bouten Construction has already initiated communication with subcontractors, said Shelby. Once final construction documents are completed, subcontractors will begin bidding. The new hospital project is on schedule to break ground in Spring 2020. Expected occupancy is late 2021.

“It’s very rewarding to see the teamwork and effort staff put into the new hospital project,” said Phyllis Gleasman, LCCHC Board Chair. “Without their understanding and insight, we would not have been able to get schematic drawings where they are today. It was a total team effort, and we’re excited to move forward.”

Chelan hospital Board hires George Rohrich as new CEO

The Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics (LCCHC) Board of Commissioners voted to hire George Rohrich as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), beginning December 2019, during their regular Board meeting Sept. 24. Current Chief Financial Officer Mike Ellis will serve as interim CEO until Rohrich’s arrival.

“I am very excited to join the team at Lake Chelan Community Hospital,” said Rohrich, who has more than 25 years’ experience as a hospital CEO and over 35 years of progressive operational and financial healthcare experience.

“There are so many great things happening at the hospital and in the community,” he continued. “I look forward to being part of the team, the community and their future success.”

Rohrich is currently CEO at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic, a 17-bed critical access hospital and primary care clinic with 180 employees in St. Peter, Minnesota. He joined their team in 2013, when the hospital had experienced low growth and consecutive years of a budget deficit. “Through his insightful and visionary leadership, Rohrich transformed the organization by growing service lines through strategic partnerships, encouraging a change in the culture of the organization to put people and patient first and make strategic investments in services and equipment to strengthen the hospital’s bottom line,” according to the organization’s website.

Rohrich’s experience also includes recruitment and hospital construction, most recently working on a USDA-funded $34 million expansion that includes 25 hospital beds and surgery, emergency, urgent care and therapy departments. With LCCHC on target to break ground on its new hospital facility in spring of 2020, Rohrich’s experience will prove invaluable, said Phyllis Gleasman, LCCHC Board Chair.

“The CEO search was a long process,” said Gleasman. “We interviewed several qualified candidates, and everyone agreed George was the right person for LCCHC. The Board looks forward to his arrival in December, and we welcome him to the community.”

Get ready for Chelan Hospital’s annual Fun Run with Walk-A-Doc Thursdays

Dr. Ann Diamond will help you prepare for this year’s annual Max Family Fun Run with four Walk-A-Doc events at Riverwalk Park on Thursday mornings at 7:30. Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) invites all ages to these informal walking activities. They begin Thursday, Aug. 22.

It’s a great chance to get some exercise and ask a family physician questions about healthcare. Meet Diamond at the flagpole at Riverwalk Park. She’ll be wearing red tennis shoes.

Then join Max, mascot ambassador of the hospital’s kids’ wellness program, Saturday, Sept. 14 for the annual free Family Fun Run at Wapato Point. Online registration is now open at Participants can choose between a 2.5 and 5 K, and the first 100 people checked into the event on Sept. 14 will receive a race t-shirt (sizes and quantities limited). The race begins at 9:30 AM. Check in and onsite registration starts at 8:30 AM. Participants are eligible to win prizes after the run, which is funded by the Lake Chelan Health & Wellness Foundation.

The Max program began six years ago. Since then, community outreach has included the annual Fun Run, a Facebook family fitness challenge, Max parking spaces at local grocery stores, and the “Catch You” bike helmet campaign. As part of that campaign, LCCHC ambulance crews stop children wearing bike helmets and give them vouchers for free frozen treats at Green Dot Sub Shop in Chelan or Manson.

The wellness team also partners with local schools to sponsor and support after-school programs like Max Attack Healthy Snacks and family wellness events. Each year, more than 200 children and parents attend Max’s Fit & Fun Night in Manson. Community fitness organizations and businesses, including yoga, dance, cross fit, Zumba, bowling and skiing, set up displays to introduce families to fun ways to stay healthy.

“Max has become the supporter of kids’ health in our community,” said Agustin Benegas, LCCHC wellness coordinator. “The kids know Max encourages them to eat healthy and move more!”

This year, the LCCHC wellness team partnered with Chelan Rotary for a new twist. Any child 18 years and younger can participate for free in the Chelan Chase 5K on Oct. 19, if they wear a Max Fun Run t-shirt (from any year) to the event. They must register on site the day of the event. The Chelan Chase supports the LCCHC’s mammography program

The Max Family Fun Run is a partnership with the Manson High School Cross Country Invitational. On the day of the event, please park at North Shore Bible Church. You are welcome to stay after your race to watch the high school athletes compete. No pets please.

Seattle Magazine’s top doc to answer questions at free women’s health social Aug. 26

Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) will host a free Women’s Health Social at Tsillan Cellars’ Sorrento’s on Monday, Aug. 26. The event, which will feature urogynecologist Dr. George McClure, begins at 12:30 PM. Dessert will be served.

Dr. McClure has been named one of Seattle Magazine’s “Top Doctors” two years in a row, and he will be available at LCCHC through October. He will give a short presentation at the upcoming social, followed by a Q&A session.

No questions are off limits. Heavy bleeding, Leaking when you laugh. Painful sex.

“Ask what you’ve been afraid to ask,” said Dr. McClure, who specializes in both medical care for more mature women and pelvic floor reconstruction. “Chances are the person sitting next to you has wondered the same thing.”

Many women’s health topics are “taboo” subjects, even though they are very common. For example, a third of women suffer from periodic bladder mishaps. Bladder leakage especially affects women over the age of 55. Studies show, however, less than 40 percent of affected women will mention their problem to a doctor or nurse. They may incorrectly assume it’s part of growing older or may be too embarrassed to ask about it, said McClure.

The wellness team at LCCHC wants women to know there are ways to manage, or even cure, women’s health challenges such as bladder leakage. “We hope women come to the social and ask questions so they can experience the highest quality of life,” said McClure.

To make an appointment with Dr. McClure at Lake Chelan Clinic, please call 509-682-2511. For more information about the event, contact Celeste Hankins at 509-726-6006.

Impact Community Health at Aug. 8 Focus Group Meeting

Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) invites you to a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) focus group meeting on Thursday, Aug. 8 from 5:30 – 6:30 PM at the Chelan Senior Center.

Every three years, the hospital and regional partners from Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties collaborate and perform a CHNA to better understand north central Washington’s community health needs. The organizations use gathered information to provide direction and impact population health.

The region developed its last CHNA in 2016. The four highest priority needs identified at that time were mental health care access, access to health care, education and obesity.

The 2019 CHNA steering committee is now collecting community input about what impacts health in Chelan County and, specifically, in the Lake Chelan Valley. The upcoming focus group will help the committee determine the community’s biggest health needs and provide direction for improving health and well-being in the LCCHC hospital district.

Focus group participants will identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to health in our community. Please join the group to improve the health and wellness of the Lake Chelan Valley. The Chelan Senior Center is located at 534 E. Trow.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Agustin Benegas, LCCHC Outreach Coordinator at or 509-682-8525.

Board approves block design for new hospital building

The Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics Board of Commissioners voted to approve the block design for the new hospital building at their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 18. The design allows for future expansion. Click here to see the DRAFT document.

CEO Steve Patonai will retire this fall

From the LCCHC Board of Commissioners
With good wishes as well as regret the Board of Commissioners of LCCHC announces the planned retirement of Chief Executive Officer Steve Patonai, effective this fall.

“While we have known all along that Steve would be with us for only a short time, his excellent service and vision for our Hospital District, patients, community and employees, have been so respected and appreciated. We are glad he has chosen to live in Chelan and wish him the very best in his retirement,” said Phyllis Gleasman, Board Chair.

Significant progress toward long-term financial health has been made during Mr. Patonai’s tenure. “With Steve’s assistance the Commission developed a new vision to achieve the highest quality and service standards, greater financial strength and readiness to build a new hospital facility and health care delivery system,” said Gleasman.

“The new hospital design is underway and construction will begin in the Spring of 2020,” said Mary Signorelli, a member of the Facilities Committee. “We are looking as far ahead as possible to ensure the new facility will address community needs and align with the future of health care,” she added.

To help the hospital and clinic survive and thrive in today’s uncertain health care environment, Mr. Patonai developed a new administrative team and processes, according to Gleasman. “We recognize and value the many changes Mr. Patonai has brought to our Hospital District while facing many challenges. Employees are working more closely together, blending their skills to help improve the quality and efficiency of LCCHC services for our patients,” she said.

Mr. Patonai moved to Lake Chelan in early 2018 with the intention to retire within a short time. The Board is now finalizing a succession plan to hire a new Chief Executive Officer who will continue to work on the established vision for the future of our Hospital District, Gleasman added. She emphasized that the senior administrative team will be working closely with the Board in the selection process. The community is welcome to attend the open public Board meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 1:30 PM in the hospital board room.

Colon cancer, colonoscopies and one woman’s story

On June 20, Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics will be the happy host of a 10-foot tall pop-up, super-sized colon. Visitors can tunnel through the 20-foot inflatable large intestine, which weighs almost 150 pounds, to learn more about pre-cancerous conditions and the various stages of colon cancer, as well as cancer prevention and early detection. The event will be held at the Chelan Fire Station from 4–7 PM, during the evening farmers market at Riverwalk Park.

We invite shoppers with enough guts to visit Polly Polyp’s market stand and follow the poop emoji trail to the Super Colon, where they will have a chance to walk through the interactive exhibit. Visitors can also win prizes and enjoy family-friendly health, wellness and prevention booths.

Colon cancer, cancer of the colon and rectum, is the third most common cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, and the second leading cancer killer in the country. It’s also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers if detected early, says LCCHC general surgeon Dr. Tabetha Bradley, because it begins as small, benign polyps that can easily be removed before they turn into cancerous cells.

Colonoscopies are the gold standard in colon cancer prevention. When you have a colonoscopy, your doctor inserts a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope into your rectum. The scope has a tiny video camera at its end that shows an image on an external screen, so your doctor can view the inside of the colon, also called the large intestine. During the procedure, your doctor looks for polyps and remove any she finds using a wire tool with a loop on the end, threaded through the colonoscope. Removing polyps means they won’t turn into cancer.

However, things intestinal still remain a taboo subject for most people. That may be why about one in three adults from 50 to 75 years old still hasn’t been tested for colorectal cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older, and they often don’t show any symptoms in the early stages.

One Woman’s Story
When 52-year-old Tamara Wolf of Manson ended up in the emergency room at Lake Chelan Hospital with an ulcer a few years ago, the doctor recommended she get a colonoscopy. Like many patients, Tamara opted out. “Everyone told me the prep was awful, and the test was invasive,” she said. “And I didn’t have any symptoms. I didn’t think I needed one.”

A busy grandma of six, Tamara was enrolled in an online veterinary assistant training program. Between studying, grandmothering and selling her homegrown blueberries at the local farmers market, two years passed before she saw a doctor again, this time for a minor hernia.

During the exam, Dr. Bradley, like the ER doctor, recommended a colonoscopy, but Tamara turned it down again. However, when labs uncovered serious anemia, Bradley and Tamara’s family physician Dr. Tobe Harberd insisted she at least take a stool sample test. The results showed blood in the stool, and her medical team refused to operate on the hernia until she had a colonoscopy. Tamara finally agreed to the test.

Harberd performed the screening. As he carefully thread the colonoscope through the ascending colon, he found a mass so large it blocked the camera’s passage. He had to reverse and exit after clipping a snippet to biopsy.

Tamara waited impatiently for the pathology results. When the phone rang the next day, Harberd had bad news. Tamara had Stage 2 colon cancer, meaning it had already spread throughout the organ. “My whole world crashed down around me,” she said. “I started to bawl. The first words out of my mouth were, ‘Am I going to die?’”

Bradley operated on Tamara soon after, removing her ascending colon, part of her small intestine called the cecum, and her appendix. Tamara was lucky. The cancer hadn’t spread outside of the bowel. They caught it just in time, she said. “If I’d put off a colonoscopy one more time, that would have been it.”

Now, almost two years cancer free, Tamara lives with a heavy routine of tests, blood work, CT scans and colonoscopies. She worries daily about the cancer coming back. It especially hits first thing in the morning, she says, when she wakes up. Every time she feels an ache or a twinge, she wonders if it’s cancer. Tamara has become an advocate for colon cancer screenings and would love to see Dr. Harberd have an overbooked colonoscopy schedule.

“This all could have been avoided if I had agreed to a colonoscopy when the doctor first suggested it,” she said. “They would have found the polyps earlier and removed them. If I had any advice, it would be to get your colonoscopy as soon as you can. It’s not that bad, and it may save your life.”

You are at higher risk of colon cancer if you’re 50 or older, are overweight or a smoker, or have a personal or family history of colon polyps or colon cancer. Younger people are exhibiting polyps more often, and researchers think it may be related to diet, lack of exercise and alcohol consumption. While many people with colon cancer do not experience any symptoms in the early stages, symptoms include rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, weakness, unexplainable weight loss, a change in bowel habits or stool consistency. Contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms.