Governor, dignitaries break ground on Swedish Medical Center campus
October 13, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
Gov. Chris Gregoire called for national health care reform at the Oct. 12 groundbreaking of a new Swedish Medical Center campus in the Issaquah Highlands, as she praised the planned hospital as a model program. The governor, a second-term Democrat, called for Congress to set aside partisanship and deliver “affordable, accessible high-quality health care.”
Gregoire praised Swedish Medical Center executives for taking steps to bring additional medical services to Issaquah. The campus, set to open in phases in 2011 and 2012, will become the first new hospital in King County to open in 25 years.
Physicians will offer inpatient and outpatient services such as cardiac care, obstetrics and neurosciences at the high-tech campus. The project is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs in health care and hospital-related fields. Crews began excavation work at the 18-acre site in mid-August.
Hospital executives touted ecofriendly elements of the hospital design and features, such as electronic medical records, to tamp down costs and reduce errors.
The governor also used the ceremony to push federal lawmakers to overhaul the health care system.
“This hospital cannot go by way of every other hospital in this state and across this nation, where all too often it is the choice of those who have no care to come to get routine medical care,” Gregoire said. “The results of which, the cost to the hospital, is huge. We need to find a way to resolve that. We can no longer endure a medical crisis in America.”
The governor praised elements of the Swedish Medical Center campus as ways to save money.
“We, too, can go paperless, we can use electronic medical records to drive up quality and drive down costs,” Gregoire said.
The hospital will open with a medical office building in 2011, followed by patient wings and hospital beds in 2012. The centerpiece of the hospital will be a light-filled atrium lined with food and retail vendors. Hospital executives also described how healing gardens and artwork will be incorporated into the design.
“They’re delivering a higher quality of health care than what I see being debated in Washington, D.C.,” Gregoire said in a follow-up interview.
Swedish/Issaquah Executive Director Chuck Salmon said the hospital would be “the most energy-efficient facility of its kind in the state of Washington.”
Gregoire praised the planned hospital as a leader in the industry.
“This project is exactly what America needs,” Gregoire said. “This is the kind of health care reform we ought to see all across the country. So, those who are back in D.C. dividing themselves along political and partisan lines, I say, come visit us in Washington state.”
The governor joined about 400 city officials, hospital executives, residents and physicians in white coats for the late-morning event. The ceremony, held in a tent on the hospital site, took place with a chain link fence and no-trespassing signs as a backdrop. Officials concluded the ceremony by dipping gold-painted shovels into the soil.
“Some of you might see a barren, flat area with one building,” said the Swedish Medical Center CEO Dr. Rod Hochman. “I see a vibrant medical community here.”
Hochman referred to Proliance Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine center, which opened near the hospital site in early 2009.
The new campus will be named Swedish/Issaquah and the existing emergency room along Northwest Sammamish Road will be rechristened Swedish/Lake Sammamish.
Swedish Medical Center executives overcame challenges by rival Overlake Hospital Medical Center and environmental concerns about underground fuel tanks at the hospital in the years leading up to the groundbreaking.
Mayor Ava Frisinger described how the highlands hospital would generate new jobs. Her remarks also turned to the germination of the idea, when surveys showed a need for “a larger selection of health care services here.
“We will see more growth in our retail and hospitality sectors as a consequence of having the hospital here,” she continued.
Dr. John Milne, medical director for strategic development and a physician at the Issaquah ER, told the story of a young girl who arrived at the emergency room a few months back with a broken arm. After doctors tended to her injury, physicians realized she would have to be sent to Seattle for surgery. When the highlands hospital opens, Milne said, patients would be able to receive complex medical procedures in Issaquah.
“This is going to be your hospital,” Milne said. “This is going to be Issaquah’s hospital.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.