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Saturday, January 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pullman hospital bond barely rejected; officials seek new path for expansion, residency program

The proposed addition to Pullman Regional Hospital is depicted in this rendering as the middle building. Voters narrowly rejected the project in November. (Pullman Regional Hospital / Courtesy)
The proposed addition to Pullman Regional Hospital is depicted in this rendering as the middle building. Voters narrowly rejected the project in November. (Pullman Regional Hospital / Courtesy)

Pullman voters narrowly rejected a bond measure that would have allowed Pullman Regional Hospital to expand its facilities and electronic record keeping as well as begin preparations to apply for a residency program with the WSU College of Medicine.

The majority of the 4,591 Pullman residents who cast ballots on the $29 million bond measure favored it. The bond measure required 60% of the votes cast in favor to pass, however, and only 59.7% of voters approved it. If 14 “no” votes were “yes” votes, it would have passed.

The bond would have increased property taxes in Pullman to support the expansion of services and facilities at Pullman Regional Hospital. The hospital is run by the local hospital district and funded in part by local taxpayer dollars. If the bond had passed, the owner of a home assessed at $250,000 would pay $167 more than they are currently in hospital district taxes of each year.

The hospital has a plan to expand its space with a new 45,000-square-foot building and convert to an electronic medical records system. The hospital has also signed a memorandum of understanding with WSU and plans to apply for a residency program in conjunction with the WSU College of Medicine.

The failed bond measure could change the timetable of those expansion plans, though Tricia Grantham, president of the hospital’s board of commissioners, said the board’s vision for future development will not change and is line with their long-term plans for the hospital.

“It was apparent to us that there is a lot of support for the vision for the next era of excellence; however, it wasn’t enough to pass the bond,” Grantham said. “So we will be having that conversation in the next month or so. The board will get together and take a hard look at what our options are and what direction we’d like to take.”

The hospital board can hold a special election at four different points in 2020 for another bond, but timing and turnout are crucial elements to consider.

The WSU College of Medicine plans to continue working with Pullman Regional Hospital to develop a full residency program at the critical access hospital despite the bond measure not passing.

A residency program would allow Pullman Regional Hospital to train new doctors who want to practice family medicine in a rural area. Grantham sees it as an opportunity to recruit and retain physicians to practice in Pullman, too.

“There’s a strong commitment to working towards the residency program,” Grantham said. “The community needs to know this isn’t the new shiny object out there.”

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