Swedish Health Services expected to occupy new $30 million Mill Creek emergency center in 2010

  • <b>By John Wolcott</b> SCBJ Editor
  • Friday, January 29, 2010 10:23am

Swedish Health Services has announced plans to open an innovative ambulatory care and emergency center in Mill Creek by the end of this year.

Snohomish County officials are reviewing Swedish’s building permit application. Plans call for the new 86,000-square-foot center to include an innovative ambulatory care and emergency room that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Swedish will lease 55,000-square-feet of space for clinical programs including an ER with 18 exam rooms, advanced diagnostic imaging (including X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan and MRI), on-site laboratory services, as well as primary and specialty care offices.

The three-story facility will be built on a 4.9-acre parcel on 128th St., just off Interstate 5, presently the site of the long-time Puget Park Drive-In, the last outdoor theater in Snohomish County. The ER and imaging center will occupy the first level.

The Hammes Co., a Brookfield, Wisc., development firm that is a nationally recognized leader in the healthcare industry, will own and manage the facility. The company will invest $25.5 million in the building and surrounding parking areas, while Swedish Health Services will invest $5 million in medical facilities and offices.

“The new facility will provide a vital service to a fast-growing area,” said Kevin Brown, Swedish senior vice president and chief administrative officer. “Many South Snohomish and North King County families now have to travel 20 to 30 minutes, often in heavy traffic, for medical care in an emergency.”

The new facility will be able to treat patients immediately who are suffering from severe lacerations or burns, broken bones, sports injuries, allergic reactions, food poisoning, work-related injuries and many other medical emergencies. Swedish officials estimate that the ER alone will see more than 35,000 patient visits each year. Over the coming months, the new development will create nearly 200 new construction and related jobs. In addition, 130 permanent health-care jobs will be created.

“Swedish Health Services has played a meaningful role in delivering quality health care to Snohomish County residents for nearly 20 years. The development of a new, cutting-edge facility in Mill Creek and the expansion of an already significant partnership between Stevens Hospital and Swedish means better health-care choices and new jobs — both important to the residents of Snohomish County,” said Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon.

Last month, Swedish announced plans to create an integrated affiliation with Stevens Hospital in Edmonds.

“The Mill Creek facility will complement that new arrangement very well,” Brown said. “The whole region is experiencing steady growth and trend data indicates the need for emergency and ambulatory care will expand significantly in the next five years.”

John Milne, M.D., medical director for strategic development at Swedish, stated that even patients with complicated diagnoses — such as acute asthma, dehydration, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — often respond rapidly to appropriate therapy.

“We think of a freestanding ER as a place to evaluate patients quickly, stabilize and treat them, then observe them closely,” explained Dr. Milne. “Many will get much better during the initial treatment period and avoid an expensive hospital admission.”

He added, “There is a huge gap between what can be done in a traditional outpatient clinic and an acute-care hospital. Many people don’t require hospitalization and full inpatient treatment, but they need much more than clinic services or home care. A freestanding ER fits perfectly in the middle of that range.”

Patients at Mill Creek will be taken directly to an open room, bypassing the typical triage and registration process that results in queuing and frequently long ER wait times.

The ‘direct bedding’ of patients, immediate initiation of treatment and in-room registration are new procedures Swedish administrators predict will improve care and eliminate wasted effort.

“We’re really just part the rapid evolution of healthcare,” said Dr. Milne. “Many more things can be done on an ambulatory or outpatient basis these days, saving people both time and money.”

Dr. Milne emphasized that the ER directly supports the work of local emergency response teams. By not having to drive so far to deliver patients, paramedics and EMTs will be back into service quicker and better able to cover their territory. The Mill Creek ER is patterned after a highly successful model Swedish developed in Issaquah in 2005. It was the first freestanding ER in the region and was immediately embraced by the community for bringing higher acuity care closer to home.

All physicians at Mill Creek will have access to EPIC, Swedish’s secure electronic health records system, so vital information can be conveyed easily among a patient’s authorized caregivers. The system provides a common platform for clinicians to share medical documentation, test results, prescriptions — and information can be sent to any EPIC facility where a patient is treated.

Swedish has worked diligently to weave the planned ER into the fabric of the surrounding community. Now that design plans are more concrete, Swedish representatives will seek additional input from local residents and from physicians practicing nearby.

“No one knows exactly how (proposed) health-care reform (in Congress) will alter the current financing and delivery system over the next decade. Regardless of the form, we do expect to see more care delivered locally in lower cost, more flexible facilities such as this one” said Brown.

Mahlum Architects and Andersen Construction Co. have been selected to design and construct the building.

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