Category Archives: Health care

43,000 Kitsap residents enrolled in Medicaid

apple.healthRoughly one in six Kitsap County residents are now enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, called Apple Health.

A total of 43,833 people living in the county have signed up for Apple Health, according to a Tuesday report from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Kitsap ranked 10th among Washington counties for Apple Health enrollment.

Another 5,328 residents enrolled in qualified plans offered through the state’s individual health insurance marketplace, ranking eighth among Washington counties.

QHPStatewide, 1.52 million residents have enrolled in Apple Health and 169,000 purchased qualified health plans, according to the report.

The report highlighted statistics from the insurance marketplace’s most recent open enrollment period, which ended Jan. 31. Enrollment in Apple Health continues year-round.

Kitsap County’s uninsured rate fell steeply after the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program. Kitsap had the smallest percentage of uninsured residents in the state in 2014.

You can read the full enrollment report here. 

Software glitch forced Doctors Clinic shutdown

logoA software glitch disrupted services Monday at The Doctors Clinic facilities.

TDC President Dr. Randall Moeller said a problem with the operating system installed on the group’s servers prevented staff and physicians from booking appointments or accessing medical records.

“It pretty well shut us down,” Moeller said.

Moeller stressed the computer issue was not the result of any hacking activity and no patient information was compromised.

Many doctors still saw patients Monday and took notes on old-fashioned paper.

The Doctors Clinic was operating normally Tuesday.

Plans submitted for Poulsbo Place assisted living facility

poulsbo.assisted
View from Jensen Way

A developer  filed a site plan review application for a 107-unit assisted living facility on a 2.2-acre property adjacent to the Jensen Way post office.

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Click to enlarge

The Poulsbo Place II complex also would include 24 independent living apartments and a 4,250 square feet of retail space. A garage under the building would provide 145 parking spaces.

The applicant is David Smith of Central Highland, which developed other portions of the Poulsbo Place master plan area. Rice Fergus Miller is the architect.

A public open house for the project was held in March 2015.

According to the notice of application, the applicant is requesting several amendments to the master plan to accommodate the assisted living facility. The changes require City Council approval.

These include increasing height limitations to allow a 45-foot average elevation for portions of the building, and treating assisted living as a “commercial use” to remain consistent with the land use mix outlined in the master plan.

Comments on the application will be accepted through June 3. See the full notice below for more details and click here to view a set of drawings filed with the city.

Health district releases new draft vaping ordinance

0203_KSLO_Vape5Kitsap Public Health District posted an updated draft of an ordinance Wednesday that would ban vaping in indoor public places.

The district had been developing a much broader ordinance regulating vaping and vape shops in the county but a new state law on vaping nullified many of the proposed local rules. 

The state law bans minors younger than 18 from possessing or purchasing vapor products, requires vapor retailers to obtain licenses and prohibits vaping in some public places, such as schools and playgrounds, frequented by children, among many other provisions.

The law didn’t address vaping in many indoor public places, and that’s the area the health district is targeting with its new draft ordinance.

The ordinance would prohibit vaping in any interior space available to the public, including workplaces, restaurants, stores, buses and elevators — essentially any enclosed gathering space that is not a private residence:

indoor plublic space

Under the proposed ordinance, establishments that bar entry to minors could obtain waivers to allow indoor vaping. The local ban also would not apply to vape shops, where vaping is still allowed under the new state law.

The public health board will review the new draft ordinance at its May 3 meeting, but will not take action until a later date.

The full text of the draft ordinance is posted below:

KPHB Draft Regulations Restricting Vaping in Indoor Public Places by Tad Sooter

Why not convert Harrison Bremerton into affordable housing?

Harrison Medical Center’s consolidation in Silverdale will leave a 450,000-square-foot hospital vacant in East Bremerton three years from now.

FeelingTheSqueezeHarrison parent company CHI Franciscan Health is still determining if the building can be repurposed or should be torn down.

Given the looming affordable housing crisis in Kitsap, reader Kim Edgar in Poulsbo wondered if Harrison Bremerton could be converted into dorm rooms for Olympic College students or some other form of low-cost housing.

“The rooms are large enough to be dorm rooms and they have their own bathrooms,” Edgar pointed out in an email.

674094_5539855_ver1.0_640_480-1“Throw in a small fridge and a microwave and you’ve got a dorm room. They could convert the nurses station in to a common room, laundry room and a common kitchen area.

“Or, maybe Kitsap Housing Authority could turn the hospital into an affordable apartment complex and possible temporary housing for the homeless.”

Edgar probably isn’t the only Kitsap resident eyeing the Harrison Bremerton building as a potential home for affordable rentals, so I asked Kurt Wiest with Bremerton Housing Authority if the idea sounded feasible.

“The simple answer,” Wiest said, “is it’s complicated.”

The Housing Authority has been interested in the site since Harrison announced its relocation plans. But Wiest said retrofitting the aging hospital into apartments would almost certainly be cost prohibitive.

Since portions of the building were built decades ago, Wiest said there are likely hazardous materials like lead or asbestos present that would make residential conversion a complex and expensive prospect.

Wiest believes there is potential to create housing at the Cherry Avenue campus if the hospital is demolished. Much will depend on what CHI Franciscan decides to do with the property.

Have an idea for creating affordable housing in Kitsap? Drop a comment below or write me at tad.sooter@kitsapsun.com.

Harrison sees big increase in ER visits

Harrison Medical Center has seen a steep increase in ER visits at a time when hospitals are working to reduce patients’ dependence on emergency care.

The number of visits to Harrison’s emergency departments in Bremerton and Silverdale jumped from 67,965 in fiscal year 2014 to 79,950 in fiscal year 2015, an change of nearly 18 percent.

(Harrison’s fiscal year runs July through June.)

The Harrison ERs remained busy in the second half of 2015, receiving another 39,468 visits.

The increase in emergency department use was somewhat surprising given Harrison’s recent success in reducing preventable ER visits. 

It was also hoped the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid would lower emergency department dependence, as more residents gained access to primary and specialty care. Only 5.6 percent of Kitsap residents lacked health insurance in 2014.

So why are ER visits still climbing at Harrison?

The hospital noted three possible factors in an email this week: 

I haven’t seen figures for how many emergency visits the Naval hospital received before the conversion, but the facility serves a large population. About 29,000 active-duty service members, retirees and their families are enrolled at the hospital.

  • There’s a shortage of primary care providers in Kitsap. Even as residents gain health coverage, they may still struggle to access care.

Harrison is launching a residency program over the next few years with the hopes of injecting more young doctors into Kitsap’s medical community.

Green light for KPS Health Plans merger

kps_mug_28042940_ver1.0_640_480Regulators have approved KPS Health Plans’ merger into Group Health Options. 

The state Office of the Insurance Commissioner signed off on the move last fall.

The Federal Office of Personnel Management gave its blessing in December, according to a Group Health spokeswoman.

KPS Health Plans, which is based in Bremerton and owned by Seattle’s Group Health Cooperative, will fade out of existence in the coming year.

KPS’ operations are being rolled into Group Health Options, another Group Health subsidiary that offers preferred provider plans.

In an interview last month KPS President Jim Page, now a vice president with Group Health Options, said it hadn’t been determined whether a Bremerton office would be maintained after the merger.

Group Health owns the KPS building at the corner of Fourth Street and Warren Avenue. The building is listed for sale for $5.3 million.

KPS Health Plans served about 20,000 members at the end of 2015. A large majority were federal employees. Page said those members won’t see any changes to their plans in 2016, but they will have the option of using Group Health providers if they want to.

KPS has posted a FAQ and video more details for members.

You can read our December story with more background on the move here.

Early plans for Virginia Mason Bainbridge clinic

virginia.masonPlans filed with the city show preliminary designs for the future Virginia Mason clinic on Bainbridge Island.

The 30,000-square-foot medical center will be built at Wintergreen Walk, a High School Road shopping center being developed by Visconsi Companies of Ohio.

Virginia Mason plans to relocate its longtime Winslow Way clinic to the new facility in late 2018.

Visconsi proposed a site plan amendment for Wintergreen Walk to accommodate the clinic. A required public participation meeting was scheduled for Monday evening.

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Revised site plan. Click to enlarge.

The proposed revision would replace a 20,000-square-foot medical building in the original plan with the 30,000-square-foot clinic.

The footprint of another building planned on the site will shrink from 7,200 square feet to 4,800 square feet to allow for more clinic parking.

The architectural design will be similar to other buildings approved for the development, according to a project description submitted by Wenzlau Architects of Bainbridge:

“The main façade which faces south is visually split into two masses with a large central glass area. The building design incorporates pitched roofs and a covered entry roof. Building materials are consistent with other buildings in the project site.

“The exterior materials include; concrete masonry units, vertical metal siding, cement board infill panels, asphalt at pitched roofs, storefront windows, exposed wood braces, sunscreens soffits to maintain a rural utilitarian spirit.”

A total of seven buildings are planned for the development. A Key Bank branch and Walgreens pharmacy opened there in November.  

See more Wintergreen Walk clinic plans below (images above are from plans submitted to city and posted online):

50231 PRE Plan Set

Bainbridge Walgreens, Key Bank ready to open

Key Bank and Walgreens on the corner of Highway 305 and High School Rds on Bainbridge Island. They are at the new “ Wintergreen Walk” the Visconsi shopping center.LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

Two businesses are ready to open in Wintergreen Walk, a new High School Road shopping center that stirred controversy on Bainbridge island.

A 14,500-square-foot Walgreens pharmacy will debut at 8 a.m. Friday. A 3,300-square-foot Key Bank branch opens at 9 a.m. Monday.

Wintergreen Walk encompasses eight acres on the northeast corner of Highway 305 and High School Road.

bainbridge-island-aerialKey Bank, which was previously located behind McDonald’s on the south side of High School Road, now occupies a prominent place above the intersection.

Walgreens is tucked behind. Both buildings feature drive thrus.

Key Bank Manager Jon Phelps said the new branch shows the bank’s commitment to the Bainbridge.

“We didn’t want to be one of the banks that pulled up roots and moved off the island,” he said. “We’re here to stay.”

Wintergreen Walk is being constructed in phases, and could eventually offer 60,000 square feet of leasable space for restaurants, retail and medical offices, spread across seven buildings.

Headed by Visconsi Companies, a midwest development firm, the shopping center incited backlash from its inception.

Islanders held protests on street corners, decrying what they saw as unnecessary suburban sprawl. In August 2014 a teenaged protestor climbed 70 feet into a Douglas fir and camped for 40 hours to draw attention to the development plans.

In the end, the trees came down and construction moved ahead. The city issued the first building permits in March.

Watch for a full story in the Monday Kitsap Sun and Nov. 20 Bainbridge Islander.

Larry Steagall photo

Poulsbo MD opening direct primary care practice

lehmann
Dr. Peter Lehmann

Dr. Peter Lehmann wanted to practice for another 30 years, but he knew he wasn’t going to make it at the pace he was going.

The grind of tending to dozens of patients each day took a physical toll on the 52-year-old family doctor, who 10 years ago was diagnosed with a rare adult form of muscular dystrophy.

“I want to be a doctor until I’m 80,” he said over coffee Monday. “But I had to start thinking about what I’m going to do, because I can’t keep up the pace.”

Lehmann needed to find a way to slow down while still making a living. He thinks he’s found a solution in direct primary care, an emerging (or perhaps re-emerging) health care model in which patients pay their provider a flat monthly fee for their care.

On Jan. 1, Lehmann will leave The Doctors Clinic in Poulsbo, where he’s been a longtime partner, to open his own direct primary care office next door. Lehmann said he’s kept his partners at The Doctors Clinic apprised of his plans and the split will be amicable.

Lehmann’s Vintage Direct Primary Care practice will be among the first of its kind in Kitsap. He’ll employ roughly the same model as the Manette Clinic, which opened in Bremerton this fall (you can read my story on the clinic here.)

Like the Manette Clinic, Lehmann’s patients will pay a flat monthly fee ($50 for adults) to cover their basic primary care needs. There will be no copays and insurance will never be billed.

VintageDirectPrimaryCare-LogoPatients will pay for things like lab work and medications at cost. They will still be encouraged to carry catastrophic insurance plans to cover emergencies.

Lehmann currently sees between 2,000 and 2,500 patients. He expects to reduce that number to between 500 and 600 at his new practice. Ideally he’ll see about five to six patients in the office each day, while also providing phone consultations and making old-fashioned house calls.

A key premise of direct primary care is that doctors can afford to see fewer patients, and spend more time with each, by ditching the massive overhead costs associated with insurance billing.

“That’s the biggest thing that this model offers, you can give patients time,” Lehmann said.

Like many devotees, Lehman sees the direct care model as a possible cure for what’s ailing family medicine. Fewer medical students are entering the field because of the high patient volumes being pushed on doctors he said. The pay is also lower than in specialty fields.

Lehmann said direct primary care could make the profession more attractive.

“I actually view it as a long-term solution,” he said. “This will bring an excitement back to primary care.”

Town Hall Meeting

Dr. Lehmann will hold a town hall-style meeting from 6-8 p.m. Nov. 17 at Poulsbo City Hall to discuss the direct primary care model. The public is welcome.