Health is a serious issue. If you think you might be in an emergency, call 911.
Have you heard this one? “Doctor, doctor. It hurts when I do this. What should I do?” “Stop doing that.” That’s a joke, but frequently a visit to a doctor, clinic, or hospital needs more than a straight line and a punchline. Healthcare in a metropolis falls into stereotypes and conventional options. Rural areas tend to be different. Islands tend to be different. Rural islands definitely are different. And then there’s Whidbey’s different version of different. Seriously though, “where is the health care?”
Let’s start with the typical.
Whidbey’s main hospital is WhidbeyHealth Medical Center. It’s in Coupeville, the county seat, near the middle of the island. That’s key and handy to reaching many of the islanders. It is even close to the highway (US20). If they can’t handle your issue, they know places that can, and they know how to get you there. In their words;
“WhidbeyHealth Medical Center is a fully licensed and certified Critical Access Hospital. The WhidbeyHealth system, which includes the medical center, three EMS stations, and eight outpatient locations, employs more than 750 staff members. An exceptional nursing team and more than 70 providers support a broad range of inpatient and outpatient services.”
Depending on who is counting, they have a few dozen beds. That’s far smaller than facilities in Seattle, but more than many rural areas. Of course, Whidbey only has about 80,000 residents, while Seattle’s metropolitan area has more than 4,000,000.
WhidbeyHealth can’t do everything.
Few hospitals can. The helipad makes it easy to spot unless it is busy elsewhere picking up or delivering a patient to another facility. Seattle has places that specialize in treating cancers, and birthing babies,… The list is long. One name that makes folks take immediate notice is Harborview. The harbor it views is in downtown Seattle, but folks going there can be treated for trauma. Or, as the helicopter flies in and out, it may be local. It can take 45 minutes to drive from either end of the island to the middle. Helicopters fly faster than ambulances can drive, and can reach some remote sites that don’t have road access. A regional option is having a subscription with the helicopter service (LifeFlight). Of course, the typical emergency vehicle is an ambulance. (See our article on Fighting Fires).
Fortunately, many medical trips aren’t emergencies. Doctor appointments, immunizations, and minor issues may be handled there, but clinics are scattered about the island. The hospital may have what you need, but a clinic four miles away is going to be more convenient than one that involves a forty-minute drive (WhidbeyHealth locations linked below).
Other local options.
Most health issues have treatment options at the hospital, as well as non-profits focused on one issue.
Health care off island.
As with many things, personal preference may mean traveling off-island for personal needs. Some islanders maintain their old relationships with professionals from a previous residence. Insurance providers may prefer approved healthcare providers who are off-island. Traveling off-island can be inconvenient at best, but the ferries have procedures to allow preferential boarding, basically skipping the line. Call first, though. You can get more information about Washington State Ferries medical preferential loading here.
Many residents are close enough to other regional facilities like the hospitals in Anacortes and Everett. Especially for people living near the north end or the south end, it can be quicker or more appealing to drive across the bridge to Anacortes or the hopefully short-enough trip across the Clinton Ferry to Mukilteo and, hence, to Everett.
What about insurance?
Because Whidbey’s population is necessarily small, there are fewer local insurance options. Your results may vary. One bit of perspective: the folks who’ve lived here long enough have probably found a solution that works well enough for them. It may not be optimal, but the tradeoff can be not having to leave the island. Especially in bad conditions, it can be reassuring to have a more personal relationship at a critical time.
Military has additional options.
Conventional medicine has been changing.
Treatments that were considered unconventional are now becoming more accepted. Chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists,… another long list. Some such services are available through hospitals and clinics, but they are frequently found as isolated providers. Being part of the Pacific Rim means many cultures are represented on Whidbey. What western medicine considers unconventional may be something that’s been practiced for thousands of years. That’s considered traditional to millions.
As usual, locals can know best.
Social media is filled with requests for various types of care. Birthing services, elder services, and mental health care are frequent requests. When in doubt, if you can’t find links from here, check with your neighbors. Everyone’s needs are different, so one answer doesn’t answer all. One source of information and support is Friends or Friends, another valuable non-profit on Whidbey.
Health data on Whidbey.
Over all of these details is overall health. How healthy is Whidbey relative to other parts of the country? US News & Report did some research.
“Overall, Island County got a 71.8. That sounds like a C, but the average for its peers is 45.3.” – AboutWhidbey
“Life expectancy is 4 years higher than the national average, 81.9 vs 7.9 years. People are more active, 82.3% vs the typical American at 75.5%. Folks are less likely to smoke (tobacco, that is) 13.9% vs 17.3%. And only 11.4% of adults are considered to be in poor health vs 16.1% for the nation.” – AboutWhidbey
Whidbey isn’t perfect. No place is, but whether from culture, or nature, or job benefits, living on Whidbey can be a treatment of its own. We hope this helped answer the where is the health care question for you, or at least points you in the right direction. See your doctor regularly, eat well, exercise, and enjoy living someplace healthy. Hmm. Might be time for a salad and a walk. Whidbey is certainly a good place for all of it. If your new to Whidbey and wanting to learn more keep searching through our blogs for a wealth of information about Whidbey. If you are considering making Whidbey home connect with us! Our agents are not only Real Estate experts but also are a wealth of information about Whidbey.