Most of the talk, in regards to the current WMC facility, is doom-and-gloom. It needs some work, sure. It’s out of date, yes. Staff needs more space, duh. It’s kind of an eye-sore, ouch.
Let’s not forget that this building has served the community since 1968, back when it was Wrangell General Hospital, spawn of Bishop Rowe. So in hopes of breaking up the negative press aimed towards our faithful facility, I’d like to take a moment to complement our current home for healthcare as the old gal nears her 50th birthday.
With Bishop Rowe nearing a half-century of service, ground was breaking on Wrangell General Hospital, just a stone’s throw away from the Ried St. address Wrangellites were used to visiting for their medical needs. Healthcare had come a long ways since the 20’s and it was just time to move up the road to a new, modern home.
Doors opened in July of 1968 with an open house in Wrangell General. In 1975, the community welcomed the addition of a Long Term Care wing. By 1989, a need for more room was addressed and modular units that would become the front of the house (ER/Clinic/Imaging/Lab) was slapped onto the east side of the building. Aside from construction of the gazebo and transforming the Clinic into the Physical Therapy wing, the campus has remained largely the same for nearly three-decades.
The building continues to cheat death and exceed its usable life, but there will be a time in the near future where we have to close the doors and drive a mile up the road. The fact is, patients could be more comfortable with upgrades and more space, and WMC staff wouldn’t have to work five times as hard to care for these patients, which is what they’re dealing with every day. Many employees are wedged in inconvenient locations, usually with little storage, and probably in a room that was designed to be anything but an office.
Just like Bishop Rowe before her, WMC will soon make way for a more modern option. Healthcare has come a long ways since the 60’s and it’s again time to move up the road. WMC may be limping towards the finish line, but she’s going to make it.
Want to pay some respects to WMC? We’re going to celebrate her 50th and you’re more than welcome to come. Mark your calendars for Friday, July 27, and make your way to the hospital for lunch and treats. Time is TBD, but I think it’s a safe bet to assume we’ll be hosting in the 11:00 am – 1:00 pm range. If you were born at Wrangell General Hospital/Wrangell Medical Center, we’d love to pile everyone in front of the building for a class photo. Stay tuned for more details, but we want to serve you a hot dog while you enjoy our hospital. She pre-dates Woodstock and the moon landing, which probably deserves an atta girl.
For more than five years, the AICS Clinic has been serving patients on Wood St. Everyone has been up there, at one point or another. Most probably visit on a regular basis, be it for their own upkeep or looking out for the fam. It’s a beautiful building, so much so that the new concept designs of the hospital feature the same color palette, roof designs and timber accents.
It’s also a spacious building, with enough room to share space with the hospital. Because of the potential to share space, the price tag on this project will decrease significantly. The main entrance will be shared with the existing clinic entrance, the meeting and break rooms will serve AICS and WMC staff, while exam and procedure rooms will serve both entities. Something that gets overlooked is approx. 2,700 sq. ft. of underutilized space that most patients don’t know is sitting overhead.
There is an entire floor above the clinic that is earmarked for hospital use. Right now, it’s currently home to medical records upon medical records, along with some storage for maintenance items. Those items will be re-located, and office space for 6-10 hospital staff will take its place.
There are some mechanical portions that will be walled off upstairs, but even excluding that space, there will be more than enough room to accommodate those hospital employees who don’t need to be on the ground floor, in the middle of the action. Finance staff, HR, Administration and others will most likely find themselves on the second floor. Given the amount of square footage available, there should even be enough space for a meeting area. Gables should provide opportunities for large windows to harvest some natural light. There’s even a designated area for an elevator and stairs, so they had some sort of inclination that this space might get used one day, even way back during the clinic design stages.
Without the unfinished 2nd floor, and all the potential shared spaces, who knows what the cost of this building would actually be? Conceptual plans show the joint campus as 44,500 sq. ft. Of that, 10,000 sq. ft. are shared areas, and 2,700 sq. ft. is the upstairs space. Previous attempts at new hospital design in Wrangell has boasted of a 53,000 sq. ft. facility. In the healthcare world, bigger is not always better. Just over 30,000 sq. ft. of new construction, along with some renovation in the existing clinic, would check off every item on our wishlist to continue providing the level of care Wrangell deserves. We just may need some help scanning all of these files.
So, as we discussed in previous blog entries, the Acute Care/Swing Bed side of the building sees an average of 2.2 patients per day. In peak months, that number rises to 3.5. Compare that to our Long Term Care, which usually has 14 permanent residents calling that wing home.
Home. It’s important to remember that this is their home now. That while Doctors, RNs, CNAs and others are scrambling around at work in their wing, they still have to feel comfortable, because this is where they reside.
So while flex areas are being utilized in many areas throughout the conceptual designs, allowing the campus to expand for coverage during surge times, the LTC wing is going to be bigger. There are going to be more designated areas and the rooms are going to be larger.
Right now, the current WMC facility has a large day room for the residents. It features large windows, comfy recliners, table areas to eat, and enough room to host guests. While it does provide enough room for residents to experience plenty of daily activities, it’s far from ideal and does come with many challenges.
First off, there’s separate dining and activities rooms in the conceptual design. No longer will residents have to eat in the same area they have activities in. No longer will they be limited to their personal room or Day Room as their indoor activity options. No longer will staff have to worry about cleaning up meals prior to activities, or vice versa. Just separating those two areas is going to improve their quality of life, which is what WMC is always striving to do.
That doesn’t include the support area, or the placeholder in the design as we discussed earlier. That strip down the middle will contain a lot of things, from restrooms to storage and offices. Also in there will be some sort of family room. That family room will provide a little more privacy for visitors, perfect for birthday parties or quiet conversations outside of the resident’s private room.
That’s right, I said private room. No more roommates. Conceptual designs have private rooms for each of our maximum 14 residents, with 7 bathrooms to be shared by suitemates. These will be spacious rooms, with each private room larger than the rooms residents are required to share in the current WMC facility. Each of the restrooms will be ADA compliant – large enough for wheelchairs to enter, safe enough for all to use.
SEARHC is looking to provide the ideal LTC experience in the state. If they can accomplish that in the new, proposed campus, they will look to expand. We want our elders to stay in Wrangell. We want elders to see Wrangell as the superior nursing and ask to relocate to our island. During presentations, Wold and SEARHC have hammered home the fact they want to design and construct a premium LTC. They’re confident that by doing so, we’ll have a waiting list of potential residents anxious to spend their days with us.