King County Executive Dow Constantine transmitted legislation to the King County Council today that would place a capital improvement bond measure before King County voters on the November 2020 General Election ballot. The measure seeks voter approval of $1.74 billion in general obligation bond funding over 20 years for health and safety improvements at King County’s Harborview Medical Center.
After reviewing recommendations approved by the Harborview Board of Trustees and the Harborview Leadership Group, Executive Constantine sent proposed legislation to the King County Council to fund improvements at Harborview Medical Center that will protect and serve King County residents in the face of the next disaster, epidemic, or pandemic.
Harborview is a 413-licensed bed hospital owned by King County and operated by UW Medicine. Harborview Medical Center is home to a range of critical medical and behavioral health services. The medical center combines state-of-the-art emergency medical services with general medicine and specialty clinics including centers of excellence in burn, neurosciences, ophthalmology, infectious disease, rehab therapy.
One of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, and the only Level 1 Trauma Center serving Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Washington, Harborview employs about 5,400 people.
• 16,716 patients were admitted
• 57,516 visited the Emergency Department
• 262,132 were seen on an outpatient basis
The proposed $1.74 billion package includes:
Per the Washington State Constitution, the bond measure must pass with 60 percent of the vote, with a minimum turnout of 40 percent of the voters in the last general election.
By comparison, the 1968 Forward Thrust bonds, in today’s dollars, would total about $2.45 billion.
The levy would cost about nine cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, which would cost the owner of a home valued at $600,000 about $68 per year, which is about $55 more than they currently pay for the current Harborview bond, which expires in 2023.
Although the proposal does not seek to increase the number of state licensed hospital beds for Harborview, it enables much more efficient use of those beds by creating more single occupancy rooms. It also ensures greater flexibility for Harborview to surge in the event of a disaster, mass casualty event, or pandemic.
Because of facility configuration and capacity constraints, every day an estimated 50 of the 413 licensed beds are unusable due to infection control protocols. This means that patients awaiting an acute care bed are kept in expensive ICU bed or surgical recovery rooms, which can impact length of stay for patients. It also means that vital surge capacity – the ability to house more patients in the event of an emergency like COVID-19 – is severely limited.
With more single occupancy rooms and larger Emergency Department, Harborview would be better able to serve patients, particularly during a disaster or pandemic.
The older structures on the campus have not been seismically upgraded and pose life safety risks during a major earthquake.
King County estimates that construction of the medical center’s needed improvements will create about 7,700 jobs. Construction is subject to King County's Master Community Workforce Agreement and would create an estimated 2,300 opportunities for apprenticeship and local hire.
“This is our generational obligation - to ensure our region continues to be the best place in the country to receive emergency medical care. There are a lot of competing needs – this is one where we are compelled to step up. It is a priority we must not postpone and cannot ignore,” said Executive Constantine.
“It must be noted that I am transmitting this measure even as we respond to the worst public health crisis in a century. There is no doubt as to Harborview’s vital importance in this pandemic. This proposal, carefully crafted over the past 13 months, responds to our region’s health and medical needs now, and prepares us for what’s to come."
This is our generational obligation - to ensure our region continues to be the best place in the country to receive emergency medical care. There are a lot of competing needs – this is one where we are compelled to step up. It is a priority we must not postpone and cannot ignore. It must be noted that I am transmitting this measure even as we respond to the worst public health crisis in a century. There is no doubt as to Harborview’s vital importance in this pandemic. This proposal, carefully crafted over the past 13 months, responds to our region’s health and medical needs now, and prepares us for what’s to come.
Harborview holds a role in King County unlike any other facility in our region – it is a place of healing, a bridge to housing and stability, and where service to the mission population is prioritized every moment. As a member of the Harborview Leadership Group that formulated a potential capital program, at no time in those 14 months did I ever imagine that our region would be tested in the way that it being tested today, nor that our local public hospital would perform such a vital and pivotal role affecting global health. For the past 143 years Harborview has cared for the residents of King County and beyond, and I look forward to working to put this proposal before the voters of King County.
Harborview is a critically important resource for all King County residents and the region. Our current facilities need the improvements that this bond will pay for, including a new facility that meets today's standards for infection control and privacy. The bond would provide funding for seismic stabilization of our aging buildings to safeguard patients, staff, and visitors to the campus. If approved, this bond will enable Harborview Medical Center to provide essential medical and mental health services for our communities, safeguarding the mission of Harborview for generations to come.
More than ever, we are seeing why we need our safety net hospital. Every member of this community is impacted by the work we do at Harborview; caring for patients and serving our mission is about keeping us healthy in good times and being the frontline in emergencies. Your nurses and healthcare workers, and our union workers at the frontline, are here for you, but we need to be building for our future success now. COVID-19 is a lesson to us all on the importance of being prepared and treating our public health as essential. This plan to build our surge capacity and a modern mission-oriented delivery system for our Trauma Level One and Disaster Control hospital is the right one to recommend to King County—we need to act now, together, to be prepared for the next time you or your loved ones need us. We thank Executive Dow Constantine for being a partner to healthcare workers and patients, and a champion for public health, in recommending this proposal for Harborview Medical Center, our public hospital.
Every day, Harborview’s healthcare providers and staff deliver exemplary care to patients in facilities that are crowded and out of date. With the facility improvements that this bond would enable, we would see more efficient use of beds, safer infection control environments, and enhanced surge capacity. We’ve learned from the COVID 19 pandemic how vital these elements are to our healthcare system. Harborview is a vital public resource that we need to support to function at its highest and best. These bond funded improvements would do just that.
As a Harborview Trustee and member of the Harborview Leadership Group I am most pleased with this recommendation for a potential bond to support capital improvements at Harborview Medical Center. Harborview Medical Center is a valuable King County asset in which we all take great pride. The facility limitations impact hospital operations and can limit services to our most vulnerable populations. To continue serving our mission population, and all citizens of King County, it is essential to have facilities that allow medical staff to perform their life saving work in every aspect, including being a Level 1 Trauma Center for adults and children.
People across King County rely on Harborview to provide world-class care to their loved ones in case of an emergency and also to the entire community in the event of a disaster. We need to make sure that this vital community resource is maintained to modern standards. Harborview serves as the disaster preparedness and disaster control hospital for Seattle and King County and the COVID pandemic crisis has shone a spotlight on the critical need to substantially expand Harborview’s surge capacity. These necessary improvements for the medical center will enable our talented and dedicated health care providers to continue to provide lifesaving services for those who need them.
Modernizing and improving the safety of Harborview Medical Center is good not just for the health of our community, but the health of our economy as well. The men and women of the 19 affiliated unions of the Seattle Building & Construction Trades Council are ready to get to work and make sure Harborview, a critical health foundation of our community, is ready to serve the Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest for generations to come.
For more information, contact:
Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966