Swedish/Issaquah adds 80 patient beds, services

October 25, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Swedish/Issaquah physicians plan to start delivering babies and performing more complicated surgeries Nov. 1, as the hospital rolls out additional services and opens 80 patient beds on the $365 million campus.

The change adds expectant mothers and intensive care unit patients to the bustling hospital months after physicians started offering routine checkups, outpatient surgical procedures and numerous other services.

The additions also mean emergency responders can transport more patients to the Swedish/Issaquah emergency room — and cut the time ambulances spend on the road to and from other Eastside and Seattle hospitals.

“It rounds out the rest of the services and makes it a fully functioning community hospital,” Kevin Brown, Swedish Medical Center senior vice president and chief administrative officer, said as the opening neared. “We’ve been doing basically everything — except if you needed to stay overnight — until this point.”

The initial phase opened to much fanfare in July. The hospital hosted a lavish reception for VIPs and greeted more than 22,000 people at a public open house days later.

The latest milestone is a much quieter affair. Hospital executives held a reception for physicians and hosted a childbirth center open house for the public Oct. 23.

In addition to childbirth and postpartum care, Swedish/Issaquah adds capacity for inpatient surgery, inpatient pediatric care and intensive care. Executives plan to add patient beds as needs arise to reach 175 beds in the future.

“So, if you’re having a surgery that requires an overnight stay, you’ll be able to do that — both have the surgery here as well as the overnight stay in the hospital bed,” Brown said.

ER services aid emergency crews, too

Eastside Fire & Rescue and other emergency response agencies can also transport patients suffering from more serious illnesses and injuries as the hospital adds facilities to bolster the ER.

Greg Tryon, EFR deputy chief of operations, said ambulance crews expect to transport more patients to Swedish/Issaquah and bypass longer trips to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland and Seattle hospitals.

“Having to transport to Bellevue or Seattle or other places takes our units out of service for longer,” he said.

The agency still transports trauma cases to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and pediatric patients to Seattle Children’s.

Nearly 5,500 patients received treatment in the Swedish/Issaquah ER since July 14, after officials shut down the standalone ER near Lake Sammamish. Brown said about 5 percent of patients treated in the ER had to be admitted into another Swedish facility or another hospital.

“There will be still be some of that, but it will be much, much lower,” he added.

The hospital has served about 31,000 patients overall since July.

Patients can also request for ambulance crews to head to a certain hospital for reasons related to health insurance and customer tastes, although medical conditions and time dictate such decisions.

“If it’s medically acceptable — i.e. it’s not a truly urgent thing — then we will find transport for them to those facilities or we will take them as appropriate,” Tryon said. “If we’re not trying to save your life or trying to save a limb, then we’ll honor that.”

Budget problems impact hospitals

The bruised economy also changed the outlook for the 101-year-old Swedish Medical Center system since Swedish/Issaquah opened in July.

In September, as Swedish faced a $19 million budget gap due to a rise in uninsured patients and government cuts in Medicare and Medicaid funding, Dr. Rod Hochman, Swedish president and CEO, said the system could cut up to 300 positions.

Brown said the problem did not impact equipment purchases or service offerings at Swedish/Issaquah, although executives offered some Issaquah positions to existing employees elsewhere in the Swedish system.

“We always expected that a large portion of our jobs would be filled by our own employees and that we would end up backfilling positions downtown,” he said. “Our employees like to work close to where they live, and our employees are very excited about having the opportunity to stay close to home.”

Swedish/Issaquah is projected to employ about 550 people Nov. 1 — a figure expected increase to about 1,000 employees by July.

“We’re right on the track that we had planned,” Brown said. “It really was more of a shoring up of some of our existing facilities that really didn’t impact what we were doing or planning to do on this campus.”

Swedish/Issaquah patients should notice impacts related to cuts elsewhere in the hospital system, Brown said. The local hospital is a success so far, he added.

“We did this originally, and continue to do it, because we felt very strongly about the need for health care services locally in the marketplace,” he said. “It’s playing out just like we expected.”

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

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One Response to “Swedish/Issaquah adds 80 patient beds, services”

  1. Shelly Hawkins on October 26th, 2011 12:36 pm

    Swedish is not ‘a fully functioning community hospital.” In addition to Swedish’s decision not to provide all female patients with legal abortions at their hospitals, I fear that Swedish may also not honor Washington State’s Death with Dignity law and send terminally ill patients elsewhere. If I had know about Swedish’s policies on these two health issues, I never would have written so many letters supporting the hospital’s move to Issaquah.

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