By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
Seattle’s Swedish Health Services received state approval Tuesday to take over management of Stevens Hospital in Edmonds.
The change is scheduled to take place on Sept. 1, said Cal Knight, president and chief operating officer of Swedish Medical Center.
The move ends Stevens’ 46-year history as a public hospital, joining up with one of the state’s largest health care organizations.
Final approval on the proposal came from the state Department of Health late Tuesday afternoon. “We’re delighted,” Knight said.
Fred Langer, president of the Stevens Hospital board, said that the management agreement will “usher in a new phase of quality health care for south Snohomish County.”
Although a new sign will soon be posted outside the hospital on 76th Ave. W. with its new name — Swedish/Edmonds — few other immediate changes are expected.
Hospital staff will remain in place. And anyone arriving in the emergency room or treated at the hospital on the day the change takes place likely won’t notice much difference, Knight said.
However, Swedish will soon begin consideration of whether to build a new emergency room at the Edmonds campus.
If a decision is made to go ahead with the project, the cost of the new facility could hit $60 million and take two years or more to complete, Knight said.
Stevens Hospital officials had considered building a new emergency room on its own for several years, but finally opted for the management agreement with Swedish.
“We’re looking at expanding a whole list of services,” Knight said.
The Swedish-Stevens agreement is thought to be the only one of its kind in Washington. Swedish, a nonprofit health care organization, will pay $600,000 in monthly lease payments to the public hospital district.
These payments will increase 3 percent each year, for the 30 years of the agreement.
Swedish has pledged to make $90 million in general investments at the Edmonds hospital over the next decade and $60 million in building improvements and expansion.
This includes an electronic medical records system, now used at all of Swedish’s hospitals and clinics. It is expected to be ready to turn on at the Edmonds hospital by the first quarter of 2012, Knight said.
Swedish also plans to establish electronic monitoring of patients in Stevens’ intensive care unit, a system now in place at Swedish’s three hospital campuses in Seattle.
Through this system, intensive care beds are electronically monitored day and night by nurses at a remote center and by an intensive care doctor, in addition to bedside care.
Instituting both systems at Stevens is expected to cost about $15.5 million.
The Department of Health gave conditional approval to the deal Tuesday. It asked Swedish to provide more details on several items, such as the final lease agreement with Stevens, and its admission policy. Knight said these requirements present no problems. He called the state action “a full approval and green light to move ahead.”
The deal with Stevens is just one part of a major expansion of Swedish’s presence in Snohomish County.
Earlier this year, Swedish announced plans to open a stand-alone emergency room as part of a three-story, $30 million medical building near the intersection of I-5 and 128th St. SW in south Everett. It is scheduled to open in February.
Swedish operates three hospitals in Seattle and is opening a fourth in Issaquah next year, key pieces of a health care group that also includes 40 specialty and primary care clinics and a visiting nurse service that operates in Snohomish and King counties.
Swedish will take over day-to-day decisions at Stevens and Stevens’ current five hospital board members will be consulted on major issues.
However, their duties will undergo a major shift, overseeing the $7.2 million in annual hospital lease payments from Swedish and other income, including property taxes. The money will be used to provide community health and wellness programs in south Snohomish County.
New mental health, and mother-infant health and programs to fight obesity are examples of what might occur, board members say.
Early on, only a portion of the money will be spent, board members say, as the new, as-yet unnamed organization, gets up and running.
Langer said more details on the organization, including its name and how the public can contact the group, are expected to be disclosed later this month.
The idea is similar to a program run by a health district in northern Larimer County, Colo. There, a public hospital was leased and the new health district began providing health services including dental care, mental health services and wellness programs such as cholesterol and blood pressure checks.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.