As always, Wallowa Memorial Hospital keeps marching along the road to progress. Hospital Chief Executive Officer, Larry Davy and the WMH staff are making sure of that.

Projects are always uppermost on the hospital’s agenda and one of the latest completions is the breezeway between the hospital and the clinic building next door. The breezeway is completely enclosed, but has large amounts of window space so users can enjoy the view.

“It keeps our patients and staff out of the weather,” Davy said. “It can be pretty brutal when the wind is blowing and the snow flying and 0 degrees and people are having to walk back and forth.”

Behind the breezeway is a new generator that will soon be hooked up to the electricity feed and run the clinic. The hospital received funding to cover most of the costs.

“The risk we have is if the power goes out at 3:30 p.m. and it’s dark — we’re done. You have to cancel the rest of the day,” Davy said. He added that if a community disaster somehow overwhelmed the hospital, the generator could be used to house some victims in the clinic and keep them warm.

The hospital and its staff are big believers in taking preventive health measures such as exercise and eating meals. On the exercise end, the hospital recently installed a half-mile, asphalt, walking path around the hospital perimeter. Davy said that donations funded 90-95 percent of the path’s construction. Hospital employees donated about $20,000 of the costs. The city of Enterprise and Winding Waters Clinic helped, as did individual donations.

The path is available to everyone in the community. But it will be especially welcome to residents of the Wallowa Valley Senior Living, which is owned by the hospital. The path allows the care facility residents to stroll on a flat, even pathway that can accommodate walkers, wheelchairs as well as fleeter pedestrians. In the spring, there will be benches for walkers to rest on.

As if that weren’t enough, the new medical office/clinic expansion in the hospital owned building just west of the hospital is also complete. Offices and care facilities, including Winding Waters Clinic’s dental care facilities, will open right after Thanksgiving.

The hospital’s longer term plans include building a health care clinic in Joseph. Davy said that the Wallowa County Health Care District owns property on Daggett and Main Street in Joseph. WCHCD will soon accept bids for the project and expects to have bids in hand and a recommendation to consider by its January board meeting.

Davy estimated 10 months for the building construction. Weather permitting an April start, completion could take place in early 2021, Davy said. Part of the building will be utilized for community health education, with a built in kitchen for cooking classes.

For the fiscally minded, the hospital, including the medical office building and Wallowa Valley Senior Living, is leaping forward in fiscal management. In 2014, mortgage debt stood at $ 19.5 million. Today, debt has leveled to $7.5 million.

“We’ve paid off a lot, and our goal is to have that paid off in the next four to five years,” Davy said. He added that WVSL, once a virtual financial albatross for the hospital district, has broken even since the middle of last year.

The hospital and its clinics and Winding Waters clinic have committed to ensuring that no one in the county gets turned away from seeking medical care at either the hospital or its clinics. Previously, the hospital offered free care to anyone at 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Starting in January, pro-rated health care will be offered to those up to 400 percent of poverty level income. In 2019, a family of four with an income of $25,750 is at the poverty level.

“This will help more people that possibly have insurance with huge deductibles,” Davy said. “That will raise the $1.5 million community benefit. It may be a challenge to the hospital, but it should make sure people aren’t foregoing health care based on their ability to pay.”

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