Community greets Swedish/Issaquah at opening celebration
July 9, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 4:30 p.m. July 9, 2011
Hospital executives and designers spared no expense to create a Swedish Medical Center campus to connect to the surrounding community and, on Saturday, curious residents from Issaquah and across the Eastside embraced Swedish/Issaquah as the $365 million hospital opened for a whirlwind of public tours.
Organizers estimate 22,000 people descended on the 18-acre campus during the daylong event. The hospital’s opening celebration served as the centerpiece at Highlands Day, a neighborhood festival in the Issaquah Highlands.
Guests lined up for tours beneath a banner declaring “We will be the healthiest communities in the nation” and tapped electronic cards at kiosks for more information about medical procedures. Inside the atrium, children clutched teddy bears clad in Swedish logo T-shirts and then carried the bears to a “checkup” in the nearby emergency room.
Many attendees trekked to the campus to satisfy a curiosity about the steel-and-glass structure perched on Grand Ridge. The hospital’s media blitz — encompassing traditional and social media — also encouraged attendance.
Issaquah resident Patricia Curtis turned 70 on Saturday and, as part of the birthday festivities, headed to the hospital for a chance to peek inside operating rooms and the ER.
“As my grandson would say, it’s awesome,” she said as a tour guide led guests to rooms used for cardiology and endoscopy procedures.
The public opening came days after a tony reception for hospital executives and community leaders. Swedish/Issaquah opens to patients July 14.
The portion containing the hospital beds and inpatient services, such as the childbirth center, is due to open in November.
Despite the influx of motorists on highlands streets, police and organizers directed traffic in efficient lines. Some attendees funneled into school buses near the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride for a jaunt to the hospital grounds.
Inside, doctors and nurses dressed in scrubs led attendees — a gaggle more akin to a busy day at Disneyland than a hospital opening — on tours of the ER, imaging center and, beyond a red line etched into the floor, to soon-to-be-sterilized operating rooms. The da Vinci Surgical System — a robot designed to assist surgeons — attracted a crowd as the robot deftly handled a penny in tiny pincers.
Classes held throughout the building during the celebration reflected the hospital’s built-in emphasis on wellness and preventative care. Elsewhere, guests browsed in the shops set up around the atrium or piled into the hospital’s eatery, Café 1910, for snacks.
“It feels like going into a four-star hotel rather than a hospital,” Curtis said.
Rich Weyls, a chaplain for the hospital system, stood next to a stained-glass piece done in blues and yellows similar to the Swedish national flag and greeted guests. The nondenominational chapel offered a quiet respite from the surging crowd in the adjacent atrium.
“I think it says an awful lot that the chapel is right here in the main part of the hospital,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the atrium, as people swirled around the Starbucks and immense video art installation, Dr. John Milne, a Swedish physician and Issaquah resident, cradled a gift. Inside the official-looking blue box: a memento from the other Washington, a flag flown at the U.S. Capitol on June 13. The gift came from U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, Issaquah’s representative in Congress.
“We were just tickled by it,” Milne said moments after a congressional aide dropped off the flag.
Issaquah resident Heather Bissmeyer said the available pediatric services at the hospital made Swedish/Issaquah a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Bissmeyer, a nurse in clinical education at Swedish/First Hill, and son Evan, 2, scored a teddy bear in the atrium and set off to explore the hospital.
“It’s exciting,” she said, and then added, “It’s a little overwhelming.”