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As the covid pandemic exploded in Western Washington, Ocean Beach Hospital used scarce funds to build an isolation unit to assess and treat coronavirus patients. The unit remains essential, and south Pacific County residents are asked to help pay for it.

Ocean Beach Hospital’s ability to serve south Pacific County residents and visitors is critically important both to our physical health and our economy. We all need to step up to help it pay for a crucial service during this pandemic: A carefully designed place to treat local coronavirus victims.

Like healthcare providers everywhere, OBH wasn’t geared up to respond to the sudden emergence of a new germ to which we all lack immunity. Community hospitals throughout the nation have faced near-constant struggle in recent years to remain financially solvent while meeting the needs of their communities. While many have been forced to close, OBH remains viable. But the new coronavirus poses a totally unexpected challenge.

The peninsula’s hospital stepped up to meet the urgent need for a safe and secure self-contained facility in which highly infectious patients can be assessed, receive initial treatment, and from which the worst affected can be transported to major hospitals for specialized care. About $104,000 was carved out of OBH’s already-tight budget to create an internal unit with its own air supply and other systems, in which suspected covid-19 cases can receive treatment without placing non-covid patients and hospital staff at undue risk of infection.

Pacific County as a whole has, so far, gotten off lightly. As of June 9, 10 infections are attributed to the county by the Washington Department of Health. Two required hospitalization and one — a Long Beach woman — succumbed to the disease while out of state. Most of our infections can be attributed to contagion among employees at a fish-processing plant in Clatsop County. Several hundred negative test results of other county residents attest to little covid transmission here in the initial weeks of Washington’s serious outbreak, which had claimed 1,161 lives as of June 7.

There is, however, no guaranty that our relatively modest covid experience will stay that way. Particularly as lockdown rules are eased — and people begin moving around and letting down their guard — rural areas like ours may see a surge in infections. The peninsula hospital, which always also has to be prepared to serve thousands of part-time residents and visitors, must continue maintaining its covid-treatment capacity for the foreseeable future. Our situation regarding future outbreaks is complicated by the poor health of many who reside here. We tend to be older and to suffer from a variety of risk factors, including diabetes, obesity, hypertension and lung ailments.

Besides its main healthcare function, a properly staffed and equipped covid isolation facility is a crucial component of meeting state guidelines for continuing to reopen our economy. The money spent by OBH will be made up many times over if we are able to gradually resume something like normality while awaiting distribution of a safe and effective vaccine.

The Ocean Beach Hospital Foundation is OBH’s charitable fundraising arm, with a board comprised of locals; Mike Porter is the foundation’s current president. It has achieved notable successes, raising around $200,000 in recent years to equip and furnish the Ocean Park Clinic, and to buy a new CT scanner for the main hospital. The foundation is leading an effort to obtain community support to pay for the covid containment facility, replenishing the money the hospital had to pony up to address the crisis at hand.

Considering current circumstances, there’s obviously no practical way for the foundation to use traditional fundraising techniques, such as a charity banquet or auction. This effort will succeed only if we all proactively chip in to pay for something that might eventually treat any one of us, and which will keep our economy on the path to restoration.

“Your gift today will help cover the additional costs of establishing an isolation unit for current and future covid-19 patients or other pandemics,” the foundation says in its fundraising appeal. “Through your giving, you’ll assist individuals and families in their greatest time of need and ensure that outstanding immediate care is always available in our rural coastal community. Thank you for investing in our community’s health at this critical moment in time.”

Donations may be made via:

• Conventional mail to Ocean Beach Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box H, Ilwaco, WA 98631

www.oceanbeachhospital.com/foundation

www.facebook.com/OceanBeachHospitalFoundation

• Calling 360-642-3181.

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