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PeaceHealth is closing its inpatient rehab unit in Bellingham. Where will patients go next?

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center is closing its 14-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit in Bellingham and moving it to Sedro-Woolley, where it is expected to open in summer 2019.
PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center is closing its 14-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit in Bellingham and moving it to Sedro-Woolley, where it is expected to open in summer 2019. The Bellingham Herald file

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center is closing its 14-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit in Bellingham and moving it to Sedro-Woolley, where it is expected to open in 2019 with fewer beds.

Services in the unit include help with mobility, self-care, speech, swallowing and memory.

Patients will be admitted to the unit, located in PeaceHealth’s Bellingham hospital, through the end of September. They usually stay there 12 to 15 days.

PeaceHealth also has the Grabow Therapy & Wellness Center, which provides outpatient care, in a separate building on its Bellingham campus. That center isn’t affected by this decision.

Medical center officials said they would instead use the space in Bellingham for patients recovering from surgery or suffering with an acute illness.

“This timeline will allow PeaceHealth St. Joseph to meet the increased admission of patients typically noted in the fall and winter months,” spokeswoman Beverly Mayhew said.

Balancing care and access as well as the increasing demand for hospital services in the region were factors in the decision, according to Mayhew.

“PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center served more patients last year than in any year in its 126-year history,” she said.

PeaceHealth expects to open a new, 10-bed, private-room inpatient rehabilitation unit at its United General Medical Center in Sedro-Woolley in July 2019, pending approvals and review.

Until the unit opens in Sedro-Woolley, Mayhew said PeaceHealth will help place patients “in facilities in the North Sound area that have inpatient units. The closest such unit is in Everett.”

The inpatient unit in Bellingham has 35 employees.

Mayhew said PeaceHealth wasn’t cutting its workforce and will try to put affected employees in jobs in its other facilities.

Based in Vancouver, Wash., PeaceHealth has medical networks in Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea
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