Hospital eyes room to grow

Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer December 15, 2010 02:14 pm
PHIL BULLOCK
5
With local demand for health care services following an ever-upward curve, Grande Ronde Hospital is ready to expand again.

Senior Director of Clinical Services Carl Bond said last week the facility is set to embark on yet another stage of growth. Plans are to buy four nearby residential properties and add them to the hospital campus.

 

Some of the acquired space could be used for clinics or departments in the future, but for now the additions will mainly serve as lodging for doctors, staff members and patient families. Other uses for the newly acquired properties could include office space and storage, and more parking.

Bond said he considers it important for area residents to know that the coming expansion will be done in a controlled way, and quality of life in the neighborhood won’t change much, if at all.

“The short-term plan is to limit use to low-impact services,’’ Bond said.

The need for more campus space became apparent a couple of years ago as administrators eyed a dramatic increase in the number of lab-billed tests, Bond said. In 2002, about 75,000 such tests were done. By 2008, the number had risen to 125,000, and this year, the number is pegged at 150,000.

The increases reflect a growing demand for services in many different health care areas.

“It’s all related to the expansion of our clinics,’’ Bond said.

There’s also been a big increase in hospital hiring. In 1980, 314 people worked at Grande Ronde Hospital. By 2000, the facility employed 415, and this year the number stands at 521. Faced with those figures, administrators wondered whether the hospital was outgrowing its current location. They hired a Boise consulting firm to study the situation and make recommendations.

“We know the hospital is old. The question was, should we be looking at buying land to build a new one?’’ Bond said.

The hospital was built in the mid-1960s and has undergone several expansions and remodels since then.

The architects determined that the building is in good shape, stable, with all the infrastructure in working order. The architects recommended expansion rather than new construction. Cost effectiveness was a factor: building a new facility would cost $80 million to $100 million, Bond said.

Last year, the hospital acquired a property at 604 Sunset and uses it for staff and patient family housing. Also, it is currently in the process of acquiring the Kap Building, a suite of doctor s offices and medical services at 710 Sunset.

Bond said that long term, one or two of the residences targeted for purchase by the hospital could be torn down to make way for clinics. Grande Ronde would file for all necessary permits, as required by law.

“Other uses would require us to get a conditional use permit,’’ he said, adding that the hospital’s priority is maintaining good relations with area residents.

“We would be very sensitive to neighborhood impacts,’’ he said.

GRH hopes to complete purchase of the homes on Sunset and Hawthorne by mid-2011, Bond said.