Olympic Medical Center explores SARC expansion

Partnership would include addition to SARC structure as part of OMC’s shift of focus from ‘sickness’ to ‘wellness’

Throughout the next six months commissioners from Olympic Medical Center and the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center will discuss the possibility of a partnership.

If pursued, a partnership likely would include an addition to the existing SARC structure.

As health care shifts from a “fee for service” to a “wellness, prevention and chronic disease management” model, officials with OMC are seeking ways to transition, Eric Lewis, OMC chief executive officer, said.

“We’d like to convert from sickness to a wellness focus,” he said, “SARC is a natural partner for these goals.”

The similarity between the SARC and OMC missions is “really driving the desire for an interlocal agreement,” Frank Pickering, SARC board of commissioners chairman, said.

A decision on a partnership won’t be made until the financial future of SARC is resolved, but the commissioners from both entities plan to begin exploring the potential partnership.

“We can’t let an election slow us down from doing the right thing for the community,” Pickering said. “No one will commit to any plans before August but if we can start the planning process now, by August we’ll have something that can really begin to take shape.”

In mid-May it became certain a measure for the creation of a metropolitan park district aimed at financially assisting SARC would appear on August’s primary election ballot. The decision to propose a new taxing district by SARC commissioners resulted from the facility’s shrinking reserve funds and failure to pass what would have been the first levy for SARC in 12 years during February’s special election.

“Everyone is looking for ways to keep SARC … it’s just to valuable too lose,” Pickering said.

Already SARC and OMC have been collaborating with programs like “Camp Cardio,” a community-based cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program where certified SARC staff help transition and support referred OMC patients as they learn to manage their health independently.

The medical center opened its main Sequim clinic near SARC in 2001 and has had a “good relationship” with SARC since, Ken Berkes, OMC cancer center and rehabilitation services director, said.

“We have the bricks and mortar for fee for service, but not the space for a health and wellness model,” he said. “We’re thinking of how we can avoid duplicating something we already have and maximize our public facilities.”

Given the equipment and pool at SARC, the partnership would allow OMC officials to develop and grow toward a community wellness-based focus without building the infrastructure to do so from scratch.

“The two pools SARC has are a huge resource,” Lewis said. “We do not have a large enough gym and treatment space for the number of patients we have in physical therapy and other services.”

Eventually if a partnership develops, Berkes told the SARC commissioners he’d like to see sports medicine and educational facilities as well as an elevator incorporated.

“A partnership would benefit members and patients,” he said. “We have some of the best health care in the world, but if you look at outcomes, there are countries that have better outcomes and prevention.”

Because SARC already provides a public recreation space for people of all ages, Sherry Nagel, SARC commissioner and board vice chairman, foresees the possible partnership as an avenue for OMC officials to get young families and children more involved with community health, she said.

“We’re really excited,” Nagel said. “OMC has a lot of expertise, but they don’t have a place to offer it.”

To evaluate the realities of a partnership and possibility of an addition, OMC officials have been given the blueprints of SARC.

Additionally, Berkes and Scott Deschenes, SARC executive director, recently visited Silverdale to learn how a similar partnership between Harrison Medical Center and the YMCA functions to allow for a medical and wellness model under one roof.

“Right now the planning phase is in the hands of OMC,” Nagel said. “From our standpoint we’ll entertain any and all options because a partnership really speaks to our mission.”