Swedish hospital to create 1,000 jobs

October 6, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

A Swedish Medical Center campus under construction in the Issaquah Highlands will create more than 1,000 jobs, from architects to construction workers to neurologists.Kevin Brown, a Swedish Medical Center senior vice president leading the Issaquah expansion, said the new campus would create 1,000 to 1,100 jobs. The first 310 hospital-specific jobs would be created when the initial phase of the sprawling 18-acre hospital campus opens in 2011. When the rest of the facility opens the following year, another 412 hospital-specific jobs would be added

Brown said 300 to 350 nonhospital jobs would be created as a result of clinics at the new campus. Another 600 to 750 healthcare jobs would be added as well. The project will support 250 to 300 construction jobs. Brown expects about 50 to 60 architect, attorney and consultant jobs to be supported by the hospital.

Brown said another 1,500 indirect jobs would be created in fields such as hospitality and retail as a result of the new hospital. Even Eastside artists will be enlisted to fill public spaces at the new hospital with works.

“Hospitals are great economic generators,” Brown said.

Excavation work began at the hospital site in mid-August. Gov. Chris Gregoire, Mayor Ava Frisinger and other city officials, hospital executives and dignitaries will attend an Oct. 12 groundbreaking ceremony.

Swedish Medical Center also operates a standalone emergency room along Northwest Sammamish Road. Hospital executives plan to expand the primary care clinic at the existing ER and shift specialists to the highlands campus. Brown said the existing facility will be renamed Swedish/Lake Sammamish after the highlands hospital opens to avoid confusion between the locations. The new campus will be known as Swedish/Issaquah.

Physicians will offer inpatient and outpatient services, such as cardiac care, obstetrics and neurosciences at the highlands campus.

Brown also addressed environmental concerns about underground fuel storage tanks proposed for the hospital. The bus-sized tanks — two for fuel oil and another for propane — would be used to run emergency generators. The tanks would hold up to 60,000 gallons of fuel. Standards call for hospitals to be self-sufficient for up to 96 hours after a disaster.

“We obviously need to have enough fuel on site to keep the facility running in the event of a natural disaster,” Brown said.

Concerns about geology beneath the highlands led officials to ban underground fuel tanks and prohibit the construction of gas stations when the city and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities formalized a development agreement in 1995. Residents raised concerns about potential contamination of the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer, a source of drinking water for the city.

Brown said double-walled tanks and monitoring of the tanks would limit the potential impact on the environment.

“The safety guards and the technology available today is safer than 50 or 100 years ago,” Brown said.

Despite the concerns, Brown said the crowd at a Sept. 29 presentation at City Hall was enthusiastic about the opening of the new hospital.

“There wasn’t a single person there who came up to me or my peers that had anything negative to say,” Brown said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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