Swedish a welcome partner

In the last two years, Swedish Health Services has delivered a major infusion of medical care in south Snohomish County, expanding health-care choices, and giving a healthy boost to the economy.

The commitment to the community from another outstanding health provider gives Snohomish County citizens more quality choices, a fortunate situation many, if not most, Americans do not share. It just so happens that the Northwest is home to some of the finest medical institutions and systems in the nation, leaders in delivering top-notch care at lower costs.

Swedish, the largest nonprofit health provider in the Northwest, took over management of Stevens Hospital in Edmonds last year, now called Swedish/Edmonds. In February, it opened a satellite emergency room, part of a $30 million medical building, in south Everett near the 128th Street SW exit on I-5.

The new ER was immediately busy — seeing more than double the patients than initially projected — and Swedish had to add more doctors and staff to keep up. Despite all the attention to the competition between Swedish and Providence Regional Medical Center Everett (with Providence set to open an expanded ER in June as part of its new hospital), the fact is, in an emergency, proximity and speed are everything. When a broken bone is protruding from a limb, there’s no time to compare emergency departments. Anyone who has tried to drive from any given point A to point B in Snohomish County — at any time of day — knows the traffic here alone warranted another emergency room in the south end.

Strokes are a medical emergency that are particularly time-sensitive — there is a narrow window of opportunity to deliver a clot-busting drug — which the Swedish ER is equipped to handle through its Acute Stroke Telemedicine Network. Using video conferencing technology, it links the ER doctors with specialists in Seattle, who are available 24/7, to make a diagnosis and begin treatment.

While indeed in competition, the health providers in the Northwest know their success also depends on cooperation, and complementary, rather duplicative, services. The agreement between between Group Health Cooperative and the Everett Clinic to collaborate is one example. The ability to share electronic medical records between clinics, ERs, and hospitals, and between different health systems, is another step that benefits patients and providers.

Swedish, like nonprofit Providence, must provide care to all who show up it at its doors. And like Providence, Swedish gives generously back to the community — in 2010 Swedish provided $112 million to charity and uncompensated care.

Snohomish County is privileged to have Swedish as its newest health partner.

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