One question I get a lot is the question regarding health care options on the island. On the island we have a number of doctor’s offices and ‘during the day’ walk-in urgent care. Virginia Mason, The Doctor’s Clinic and Bainbridge Pediatrics are the largest offices, plus a number of smaller offices. But as of now (June 2013) we do not have a 24 hour urgent care or a full-service hospital. However, the good news is Harrison has purchased a site on the island to build a 13,000 square foot 24 hour urgent care facility scheduled to open in 2014. Read the Bainbridge Review article here). What we do have on the North Kitsap side is Harrison Hospital in Bremerton, which is accessible off the Agate Pass Bridge to the north. But, since large hospitals like Children’s Hospital, Harborview and UW Medical Center are in Seattle, the ferry and transport time can pose an issue for a critical emergency.
What many people don’t know, however, is that we DO have a heli-pad at our main fire station on Madison Avenue. The heli-pad has been in use on Bainbridge since 1972, first through Army MAST Helicopters and now through several transport agencies affiliated with the Life Flight network of Washington. A helicopter transport is the quickest way to get off the island and to a hospital supporting the needs of the emergency.The upside is that a helicopter transport can be faster than an ambulance navigating busy city streets. The downside is that a helicopter transport ride can be a very expensive unplanned cost (costs can be upwards of $10k) and most medical insurance companies do not provide full coverage.
For my clients and those new to the island, I recommend that you first check with your medical coverage to see if they cover air transports. If you do not have coverage (or full coverage), you can purchase coverage for your entire immediate family for only $79 a year ($155 for 2 years) through Aircare Northwest. The Aircare Membership Program helps fund Airlift Northwest, the actual helicopter program. They provide residents in communities in South East Alaska and Washington with high-quality air medical service at an affordable cost. Full program details are here. To register now, click here. A great deal, in my opinion, especially since I personally know of families who have had to use the service. And living close to the heli-pad, I can attest that is does get a fair amount of use. You never like hearing the helicopter coming in or taking off because it does usually mean a potentially life threatening situation, but at the same time, I always feel grateful that we have service so close.
About a year after we moved here I learned that our standard ferry crossing (35 minutes) can be sped up in an emergency and the ferry can actually cross in about 18 minutes. Again, I learned that from experience. It was indeed a different ferry ride to cross in about half the time. In that situation, an ambulance will call ahead and the ferry will wait for the ambulance then take off when it arrives. They will not necessarily load the rest of the boat. This happens for semi-critical cases. Also, again from experience, we learned after checking out from a Seattle hospital post-surgery, that hospitals can issue you a priority loading pass. When you arrive at the ferry terminal you go straight to the front of the line and are the first to load.
Our fire and emergency personnel are fantastic on the island. I have seen them in action and we are very fortunate for the first responder level of care we have on Bainbridge. A few years ago the fire department started offering free reflective address numbers to help them find our homes and businesses quicker when there is an emergency. In our rural environment, it can be tricky. The Bainbridge Island Fire Department provides blue reflective address number for free. For more info, click here.