Expansion nearing completion at Legacy Salmon Creek

New wing, other changes coincide with switch as preferred Kaiser hospital

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 
photoJonathan Avery, chief administrative officer, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center

The new labor-and-delivery rooms at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center are a little farther along than Kaylyn Smith's unborn baby.

The renovated rooms at the hospital's Family Birth Center are due to be completed by Oct. 1. Kaylyn's son — her first child with husband, Troy — is due Nov. 2.

"That's perfect," Kaylyn said of the timing. "Just what we want."

Smith will be among the first Kaiser Permanente patients to deliver at the Salmon Creek hospital after its new, seven-year contract with Kaiser goes into effect Oct. 1. In January, Kaiser announced it was switching from using PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center as its health-plan hospital in Clark County to Legacy Salmon Creek.

The new deal means about 100,000 Clark County residents who receive health insurance through Kaiser could find themselves using Legacy Salmon Creek for some hospital services.

The hospital's Family Birth Center is expected to experience the biggest impact from the new Kaiser contract. The center delivers about 2,200 babies every year. Hospital officials expect that number to increase by about 800 once Kaiser mothers-to-be start going to the Salmon Creek hospital.

The hospital's other departments may also see some Cowlitz County Kaiser members, like Longview residents Troy and Kaylyn Smith.

When the contract goes into effect Oct. 1, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center will be the preferred, in-network hospital for Kaiser members in both Clark and Cowlitz counties. But members can still choose to receive care at various other hospitals, including PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, said Mike Foley, a Kaiser Permanente spokesman.

Earlier this week, the Smiths joined a handful of other expectant mothers and their spouses for a tour of the existing Family Birth Center. After the group tour, the Smiths took a peek at the new wing of the birth center where the hospital is adding four labor-and-delivery rooms, a surgical suite, a triage room and 10 additional postpartum rooms.

Renovations in the new wing, which used to house a conference room and administrative offices, will cost about $4.3 million.

During the informal tour, ladders, boxes and pieces of wood paneling cluttered the hallway. In one patient room, the jetted bathtub and the sink where newborns will receive their first baths were the only fixtures. The concrete floor was covered in white footprints. The walls were bare.

By next week, though, the rooms will be ready for furniture. A hospital bed will be placed in the middle of the room. A glider chair to rock baby will be placed in a corner. And the daybed where spouses may sleep will have a cushion.

As the Smiths inspected the facilities, Troy said he and his wife feel as prepared as the unfinished room.

"You realize how unready we are," he said. "This is coming fast."

While the Oct. 1 contract date is fast approaching, efforts leading up to the change have been in the works nearly nine months, said Jonathan Avery, chief administrative officer at Legacy Salmon Creek.

The hospital began the hiring process about six months ago. Staff received more than 1,000 applications for the 170 positions being added at the hospital, Avery said. About 140 positions have been filled, and once hiring is complete, the hospital's total workforce will reach about 1,050.

The hospital is also granting hospital credentials to about 170 Permanente Medical Group physicians, giving the Kaiser providers access to the hospital.

In addition to the Family Birth Center expansion, the hospital is remodeling its emergency department.

The hospital is expanding its triage area adjacent to the emergency department, aiming to treat lower acuity patients more quickly and freeing up emergency department beds for higher acuity patients, Avery said.

With the addition of Kaiser patients, the hospital expects to see about 8,000 to 9,000 more patients in its emergency department each year.

The hospital has also turned a mothballed wing on the third floor into a new intermediate care unit. The 16-bed IMCU is considered a step-down from the intensive care unit. It will open to patients Wednesday.

The total cost of the expansion and renovation work in the intermediate care unit, emergency department and Family Birth Center is about $7 million.

Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center last expanded its facility in 2009, when it built out its sixth floor to add several specialty units. That expansion cost $20 million.


Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.