Almost worth getting sick to see: New hospital looks fantastic

<I>NANCY BUTTERFIELD photo</I><BR>Ocean Beach Hospital CEO Jim Robertson stands in what will be the facility's new lobby.

ILWACO - By the end of this year, it'll almost be worth getting sick to make a visit to the beautiful new Ocean Beach Hospital.

Phase one - new construction - should be completed by Aug. 15, "Just a tad behind the original plan," hospital CEO Jim Robertson said. Phase 2 encompasses remodeling the existing hospital. "The whole project is on track to be completed by the end of the year," he said.

The contractor is Colamette Construction Co. of Sherwood, Ore.

Peninsula residents in the hospital's district passed a $9.8 million bond three years ago. That money covers the entire project, including architect fees, construction and equipment. "We're well within the budget," Robertson said.

When work is completed, members of the community will see the following health care enhancements and expansions at the hospital:

• 18,000 square feet of new space

• 10,000 square feet of remodeled existing space

• The "recapture" of 2,000 square feet in what was a crawl space in the basement

• Consolidation of all hospital services, including billing, cardio-respiratory services and the education center

• Expansion of patient care areas. ER patients will no longer have to be wheeled past people waiting for out-patient care. The emergency room will grow from two treatment beds and one exam room to seven private treatment rooms and two exam rooms. Seating in the ER waiting room will triple - from six seats to 22 - and an area is set aside for visiting doctors. ER patients will be taken to a triage area, then on to treatment areas depending on their condition. Two trauma rooms will be available.

• The radiology department will grow from one to two rooms. "Right now, when emergency patients need an X-ray, routine X-ray patients have to wait," Robertson said. In the new department "We'll be able to handle both at once." A new X-ray machine is scheduled to arrive on Monday, Aug. 4, along with a truckload of new furniture.

• Ultrasound and mammography, which was located in other areas of the hospital, will be within the radiology department with additional space added for a waiting area within the department.

• The CT area, currently in back of the hospital, which requires taking patients outside to reach it, will be inside the hospital, near the ER. And, a site is being created for a mobile MRI machine which at first will be available one day a week.

• Lab size will double, allowing more space for testing and diagnostic equipment and a private blood draw area. Out-patient hours will be expanded and more tests will be done in-house.

• The cardio-respiratory department, currently housed in the Ilwaco Community Building, will now be within the hospital. "It will be a real department, creating a dedicated cardiac rehab program area," Robertson said. "We'll be promoting the program more vigorously because we'll have the space to do it."

• The patient registration area will be separate from the main entrance. A larger waiting room also will be added next to the main entrance with a separate door for after-hours patients. This will create a secure area for emergency and registration, apart from the main entrance after business hours. Registration will contain three "good-sized cubicles and will comply with the new privacy act laws," Robertson said.

• The soaring two-story atrium-style lobby will contain an information desk and gift shop staffed by hospital auxiliary members. A lighthouse-themed mural by Dorothy Danielson will cover the two-story wall and an elevator will be available to the second floor.

• A dedicated chapel will be available for patients, relatives and clergy.

• More and larger public restrooms will be available off the lobby and in the registration area.

• The new hall configuration separates patients from the public. "An emergency room patient can go from X-ray to a patient room and never see the public," Robertson said.

• A lounge area for employees has been created off the new ER. Formerly there was nowhere for hospital workers to take a break.

And that's just the ground floor.

And on the second floor...

The new second floor will house the education office and classrooms, meeting rooms, data-processing, accounting, human resources and administration offices. "This has allowed us to consolidate and expand patient services on one level and regain patient rooms that had been used for out-patient service, data processing, Ultrasound and other services," Robertson said.

The large meeting room can be divided into three smaller areas, each with equipment for phone- and video-conferencing. OBH Admin-istrative Assistant Georgene Shaver has been working with other small hospitals on the coast to create a rural hospital network to provide video- and telemedicine to "link the Peninsula to the rest of the world," she says.

The basement level of the building will see changes also. The cafeteria dining area has been expanded with new lighting and new and larger windows at the back of the hospital. A large glass exit door has been added and picnic tables will be added later for outdoor dining.

The dirt crawl space under the hospital has been excavated, making room for maintenance, housekeeping, laundry and purchasing departments and a materials and records storage area has been created. The maintenance department, which has doubled in area, got along without an office before the new construction. The new laundry area is three times the previous area. The purchasing department, formerly housed in an area the size of a closet, now has an actual office.

The boiler room has been completely renovated and new water heaters and pumps have been installed.

"The biggest gain in excavating the crawl space is storage," Robertson said. "Now we have room for electrical equipment, business and patient records and other storage. We never had storage space before."

The ambulance and main entrance will be covered, with a circular drive allowing for drop-offs and pick-ups. The new paving parking lot northeast of the main hospital has more than 100 spaces.

The antiquated heating and air-conditioning, fire alarm, nurse call and phone systems are all new. The phone system will be integrated with the clinic to the north of the hospital "so patients who call the clinic will see a vast improvement over how calls are handled," Robertson said. OBH is the first hospital in the area to install a state-of-the-art computerized phone system, he says.

The "penthouse" of the new building will house all mechanical equipment.

"Sidewalk superintendents" may have noticed sturdy V-beams visible through the windows in the new construction. The beams provide upgraded seismic requirements, Robertson said. "This is probably the safest building on the Peninsula in an earthquake."

Shaver's work with the consortium of small rural hospitals on the west side of the state will result in vastly improved care for Peninsula patients. Hospitals included in the group are Willapa Harbor, Morton, Jefferson, McCleary and Forks. The west-side group will join an existing rural hospital group on the east side of the state.

"Our goals are sharing information and resources, quality improvement, and video- and tele-onferencing for the education of the public and hospital staff," Shaver said. "Quality improvement was the basis for getting the group off the ground."

The consortium is applying for federal funds to be used for enhancements such as T-1 phone lines. "This will even the playing field for everyone," she said. The lines will enable access to the National Library of Medicine via the Internet and, in the future, to share information on patients between specialists allowing patients to remain on the Peninsula and discuss their case with an out-of-town physician. And, for example, if an ER physician is confronted with an unusual case, he or she will have access to specialists.

The hospital now offers smoking cessation and diabetes education classes. The new technology could expand to allow, for example, suicide prevention and education and women's health classes. "Expanding our patient services will be a big plus for the hospital," Shaver said.

Another benefit will be the designation of OBH and the other hospitals as "critical access" hospitals, a Medicare term to identify small rural hospitals that are essential to health care in their areas. "The net effect is that Medicare reimburses critical access hospitals at the cost of care as opposed to a flat rate and puts in place fee schedules for out-patient care," Shaver said. "This means survival for small hospitals who are Medicare dependent."

The new hospital construction is one more link in the resurgence of Ilwaco and the Peninsula. "There are lots of exciting things going on in Ilwaco," Robertson said. "The hospital, the port, schools, the city. It's all wonderful."

A grand opening and tours of the new hospital will be scheduled around the first of the year so people can see the improvements in health care to local patients.

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