Twenty years ago, the hospital in Goldendale asked the voters for a bond supported by taxes to build a new part of the hospital. That bond was passed, and a new emergency department, X-ray department, and laboratory was developed. More recently some of the basement space from that new building was developed into a physical therapy department. Let me share an insider view of how these changes have impacted the community and doctors.

I worked in that tiny three-room emergency department until 2000. We needed more rooms to give good care which was private and safe. We now have five rooms and two large trauma/acute care bays and an isolation room. That isolation room was useful in the pandemic. Adding the X-ray department right next door with a CT scanner, literally sharing a wall with the trauma room, was a major improvement. No more wheeling patients with severe injuries or illnesses down the hall to an X-ray room and one that was without CT capability. That connection between the emergency department, CT, and now the helipad has become important. The treatments for stroke and heart attack have evolved. For stroke, we do a CT quickly, evaluate whether a procedure to remove by angiography or dissolve a clot in the brain artery is possible. If one of these treatments is warranted, then fly by helicopter to a facility that does these procedures—all within three hours of when symptoms began. Some heart attacks are treated in similar ways but the goal is even shorter, to get to angiography within 90 minutes of the beginning of symptoms. No other hospital in the Gorge does the angiography procedure to treat these conditions. All of the Gorge Hospitals are flying our patients to Portland for these procedures. Even if you are not fond of this hospital, these services are important to have available. That year 2000 Bond opened the door for this.

Remember our tiny little lab in 2000? If you stretched a little, you could come very close to touching the analyzer machines while you were having your blood drawn. That would have been an issue with Covid, to say nothing of the space issues there were in that lab to get any work done. The new lab has been able to add many new tests—because there is room for a new type of analyzer and a lab tech to perform the work.

How could it have been so cramped in 2000? Recall that we were working with a hospital built in 1949.

What can we do with the remaining portion of the1949 hospital still in use with this new bond?

1. We have one operating room in our 1949 portion of the hospital. For much of my career we relied on surgeons from The Dalles to come and do surgery. Often the surgeons would come when they were beginning their practices, and then after they became busier, Goldendale service became less of a priority. Now we have surgeons who live and work here. We have an excellent general surgeon in Dr. Jeannie MacGillivray, and now a gynecologist as well. The hospital has interviewed five orthopedic surgeons who would come and practice here. Our surgery department is growing.

2. We are still using the hospital rooms for inpatients built in 1949. These rooms were two bedrooms with a shared bathroom. Back then, four hospitalized patients used one bathroom. Good for 1949, but definitely not what we want now. Building inpatient rooms with private bathrooms is a good upgrade.

3. There are almost no long-term care beds in the entire county. The current hospital area used for inpatient beds could be used for long term care. Two bedrooms for long term care would be similar to what is available in other places. Families would not need to travel to see their loved ones.

We all want more doctors and nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are sharp, to come and stay in Goldendale. Having a good facility helps a great deal in recruitment.

I am living in a house built by Joe Dressel in 1950. It’s a classic, and when Pam and I first moved here in 1980, we loved it. Overtime our family grew, and we needed more room, and the house aged. Some investment has been needed from time to time in our home. Our hospital is similar.

I am thankful that the people of this Hospital District could see far enough ahead and voted for the bond in 2000. It did cost something then, but the return on investment was good. This bond would be a good return on investment as well. Vote yes for the bond.

-Michael E Garnett MD