By John Wolcott SCBJ Freelance Writer
EVERETT — Health care in Snohomish County will see significant improvements next summer with the opening of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s new $500 million, 12-story building in north Everett.
The U-shaped, twin-towered facility will offer high-tech medical equipment, modern facilities and patient care on par with King County and the top care centers across the nation, officials say.
“Looking at the big picture, we will have in our county the same or higher caliber of health care found anywhere in the Puget Sound region or across the country,” said Providence CEO Dave Brooks. “As we transform health-care services, we want to create the best for the patient, with quality facilities and services, but we also have to create great access for everyone in the community.”
It wouldn’t be right to create “wonderful clinical service” with limited access, or to create “tremendous (levels of) access but offer only sub-par services,” he said. “We want to do both.”
Filled with greatly improved medical equipment and computer systems, more space, modern patient rooms and highly trained people, the new medical center also will let Brooks and his staff attract the best available medical professionals in a variety of fields.
“Today, we compete in a national market for top-caliber doctors, specialists, technicians and similar needs,” Brooks said. “Those people have lots of choices about where they can go in the country. Our lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest is attractive but they won’t come if their working environment doesn’t match their professional needs, too.”
He said that was proven true when the recently built $62 million Providence Regional Cancer Partnership treatment center opened across the street from the main Providence Colby Campus in north Everett.
He said the new 700,000-square-foot medical facility is an opportunity to not only attract medical industry leaders but also to “bring our facilities up to the level of our present medical staff.”
While the search for top-caliber specialists and medical professionals in various fields or roles at the hospital is ongoing, the opening of the new towers won’t bring an immediate increase in the medical center’s work force, Brooks said.
Presently, Providence has 800 medical positions at its Colby and Pacific Avenue campuses, plus 3,500 staff who operate and maintain the facilities.
“What’s really impressive to me is that we have 900 volunteers from the community who work here, too, just because they want to help,” Brooks said. “We have extra space for future growth in the new facility and we’ll add jobs there over the years as they’re needed. We know we’ll have more people staying here instead of traveling to King County and that alone will contribute to increasing our growth.”
Providence also is attracting national attention for its successful efforts in recent years to provide quality medical care while containing costs. The facility, now ranked among the top five percent of all U.S. hospitals, was featured in a six-page Business Week article last January focusing on those accomplishments and Brooks has been invited twice to Washington, D.C., to tell Providence’s health-care story at Institute for Health Care Improvement conferences.
Also, Providence is ranked at the top of the list of Washington state hospitals for cardiology, stroke treatment, critical care and general surgery services, and ranked among the top 10 percent of hospitals nationally in cardiology.
M.A. Mortenson Co. began site preparation and excavation work in October 2008. Then, tower cranes were installed to erect the steel frame, which was finished in October 2009. The basic shell was finished in August 2010. Now totally glassed in, with the last of the exterior skin being installed on the east side, the towers look nearly done. Inside, however, months of finishing work is ahead, with nearly 600 construction workers on site.
The facility will open in stages next summer, beginning with the emergency department that will fill the entire first floor’s 55,870 square feet, an area larger than a football field. Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, which serves five counties in the north Puget Sound area, has been ranked as having the state’s busiest emergency center for many years and Providence officials said they expect that pace to continue.
In the new emergency department, officials predict that improved workflow and more space for patients will dramatically reduce waiting times, which often stretch to three hours. Also, there will be 79 private treatment rooms (up from today’s 51 emergency rooms at both campuses) and four trauma rooms (up from two) to help speed medical care. The new emergency space is designed to serve up to 150,000 patients each year, compared to 110,638 in 2009.
Overall, the towers will offer 372 rooms for admitted patients and new high-tech equipment that includes four CT scanners and one MRI scanner. Today’s new high-definition CT scanners take thousands of images during a single pass over the patient, four times faster than older machines. MRI machines will be more powerful, too, and offer larger openings to make patients more comfortable as they pass through the machine.
Another milestone when the new emergency department opens will be the closure of the Pacific Campus emergency room, consolidating all emergency services at the Colby Campus.