So if you were able to attend the Future of Healthcare in Wrangell ceremony last month at the Nolan Center, I'm probably not breaking news for you. To those who were stuck at the elementary Christmas concert, or those who didn't pay much attention to the Nolan Center walls, here's a peak at the new hospital's innards - at least what the insides may look like at this stage of design. My apologies for the glare, as these are just iPhone photos of oversize poster boards that ended up in my office. I just wanted to share.
We'll start with the familiar, or at least somewhat recognizable. Above is the registration area. Most of you may have recognized this as the AICS registration, which will be slightly renovated to serve as combined registration for the hospital and clinic wings. Patient traffic for the entire campus will be funneled thru what is currently the AICS Clinic main entrance, except for traffic utilizing the emergency entrance.
Above is a conceptual of one of the four acute care/swing bed rooms. This spacious area can be flexed to accommodate two patients at times of a surge in traffic. During normal traffic days, the area provides plenty of space to provide care and house visitors.
Above is a snapshot of multiple Long Term Care areas, including areas for dining, activities, and a sub-station for providers. The lady with the banana seems to be enjoying the new layout for our residents.
Speaking of residents - check out their new rooms. No roommates in the new setup, as each resident will have their own, private living space. This window looks out to the treeline, facing west/northwest. Residents housed on the other side of the of the hallways will be facing ...
... the courtyard! Makes me want to have a picnic. Complete with vegetation and seating. Providing tons of natural light and fresh air. Creating a safe space for residents and patients to get outside. This image is my favorite of the bunch. Maybe it's the blue sky. Maybe I can just picture myself eating a sandwich at that table on a sunny day.
To all of those who joined us for the Future of Healthcare in Wrangell Ceremony Dec. 13th at the Nolan Center, thanks for celebrating with us. Below is a short piece I was asked to put together and read during the event, an attempt at summarizing Wrangell's healthcare history in just a couple, double-spaced pages. While it does not do our facilities and providers justice for nearly a century of serving our community, I would like to share it with my readers in hopes of painting a picture of forward progress in the ever changing world of healthcare.
“I can still picture opening the door to the elevator,” recalled retired RN Janet Buness. “Only a two-by-four separated you and the four-story elevator shaft. You would reach in and pull on a rope - that called the elevator to your floor.”
Buness is speaking of the elevator in Bishop Rowe Hospital, which was part of a fleet of hospitals Episcopal Bishop Peter Trimble Rowe founded across the state in the early 20th century. When the building opened in 1926, it was home to one of only two passenger elevators in Alaska.
The elevator provides a great illustration to the challenges every aging healthcare facility faces. The elevator was not wide enough to fit a gurney. Anytime a patient required transport between any of the four hospital service floors, the EMTs were called. Patients would be secured to a backboard, then slid into the elevator at a 45-degree angle in order to make the trip up or down.
Buness recalls the somewhat-primitive nature of healthcare in Wrangell’s first hospital. There was no such thing as disposables, as staff spent countless hours re-powdering gloves, sharpening needles, and washing drapes. Physicians and nurses were providing care with no oxygen in the walls, no suction machines, no cardiac monitors, and very few bathrooms.
Just as Buness was wrapping up her first year of service in Wrangell, Bishop Rowe gave way to Wrangell General Hospital, now known as Wrangell Medical Center, where she would serve for an additional 47 years. “It was state of the art,” stated Buness. “Clean, modern, and bright. I can’t speak for all staff, but myself and those I worked with were happy to be in the new building. No tears were shed when leaving Bishop Rowe.”
Wrangell General Hospital was open for business in July of 1968. In 1975, construction was complete on the Long Term Care addition, expanding a service that has become synonymous with healthcare at Wrangell Medical Center. After a modular addition of the current Emergency Room and support areas in 1989, the current hospital facility as we know it had taken shape. It wasn’t long after that last remodel when Administration began kicking the tires on a potential new facility.
Former CFO Olinda White describes attempts at securing a new hospital back in 1996. Then CEO Brian Gilbert had discussions with architects about a potential new facility, or possible addition to the current WMC facility. Once the price tags started showing rearing their ugly heads, discussions were quickly tabled. It became clear that, in order to ensure our providers had yet another state of the art campus, the financial picture for WMC needed to be easier on the eyes. After moves to receive some exceptional relief from the State, and being re-classified as a Critical Access Hospital, new reimbursement rates soon allowed for the new hospital conversation to be rekindled.
By 2009, WMC was deep down the road towards a new building. The bank account was flush. The state and federal financial assistance was there for construction. Big-ticket, maintenance items throughout the hospital had exceeded their usable life. At this point, WMC had been in service about as long as its predecessor, Bishop Rowe. It was time.
Well, we all know how that turned out. Current WMC staff are still crestfallen at the thought of labeling office furniture and equipment, specifying items moving to the new hospital and those to be surplused. Interior paint colors and carpet patterns were picked out. It was a done deal, in their minds. The process truly was in the 11th hour when it fell apart.
White’s reaction to the gut-punch that was the new hospital no longer being on the table was the reaction you may come to expect in working in the healthcare field. “It was heartbreaking,” she said, “but all you can do is get back to work and move on.”
And move on we did. WMC continued to provide a level of service that most communities of Wrangell’s size can only dream of offering, even as the once-flush bank account shriveled in efforts to cover day-to-day operations. That sustained level of service, combined with an unappealing future in terms of the state healthcare budget, led us here. It led SEARHC to us.
On October 2nd, when the vast majority of voters at the polls shaded in that oval on the yes side of Prop 1, the future of healthcare in Wrangell became clear. No longer would the Assembly have to hear about the shrinking number of days of cash on hand. Fingers crossed in hopes of willing the 50-year-old structure and utilities to continue cheating death could finally be un-crossed. Anxiety from imagining Wrangell as a hospital-less community was now relieved. WMC staff will continue serving. SEARHC will open doors on a new hospital - only the third in our community’s history - in just two, short years.
As we saw with the closing of Bishop Rowe, and as we will see again when the lights are turned off at Wrangell Medical Center, hospitals come and go. They’re replaceable. It may cost tens of millions of dollars and many hours of sleep for those parties involved, but they’re replaceable. The value lies in the staff and the level of care they provide. It is the staff who led SEARHC to believe Wrangell is worth the investment.
It’s unfair to think that in five minutes, one could summarize more than 90 years of healthcare in Wrangell. The highs, the lows. The struggles, the triumphs. The countless staff members who have left a lasting impression on not only the hospital, but our community. Forgive me if we’ve left out a name that was crucial in our survival, or a story that outlines a hurdle we leapt to get to this point. The important part is that we’re here, and our hospital is not going anywhere.
Celebrate the Future of Healthcare in Wrangell.
What is that?
An event (or ceremony, if you will) commemorating the SEARHC acquisition of Wrangell Medical Center.
Thursday, December 13, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
At the Nolan Center, of course.
wait - that's the same time as my kid's christmas concert.
Yeah, sorry. Our bad. But we hope that those who are able to attend the ceremony, do attend. And those who can't miss the Xmas concert, at least try to make an appearance. We'll have snacks!
Everybody. Or, as Oprah would say it - You get an invite! And you get an invite!
But seriously, we hope to see you at the ceremony. The SEARHC acquisition of WMC has assured Wrangell will not only be able to continue offering the healthcare services the community is accustomed to, but that SEARHC will be breaking ground in the spring on a brand-spanking-new hospital. It's a big deal. And it would not be possible if not for the involvement of some special people, including the voters that made it a reality. Tell your friends and family. Share the event on Facebook (use the button below).
Did I mention we'll have snacks?
One of the initial requests I had after coming on board with WMC was to freshen up our logo. Not to offend fans of the old logo, but it was a little dated. The mountains were pixelated, the water didn't quite mesh with the image, and quite frankly, I wasn't a fan of the color scheme. And if anyone can correctly identify the mountain in the image, comment below and I'll give the first correct answer a now vintage WMC logo'd hoodie.
Numerous attempts to clean up the logo by 3Fold, SEARHC's contracted marketing firm, fell flat. In the 10-plus years since the logo's inception, the necessary files for updating the image had fell through the cracks. In short - the whole dang thing would have to be re-created, and at some point, is it really worth saving?
So we scrapped it.
Drumroll, please. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our new logo.
If anyone didn't know we were SEARHC, they do now. And it's important for our patients to know of our affiliation. It's important that they know we're a part of Southeast's premier healthcare provider. It's a good thing, especially given the nation's healthcare climate, to be a member of the SEARHC Care Network.
And I love the logo for WMC. The devils club, the color scheme, the simplicity. I can already see it as a sign, lit up on the side of the road. You'll be seeing this new logo a lot, plastered on every piece of WMC documentation and media, be it digital or print. If there's one thing besides healthcare that SEARHC is serious about, it's branding. Prepare to see the new WMC brand popping up everywhere.
So we've talked a bit about the Long Term Care and the courtyard. I'd like to take a quick look at what's happening in the front of the building, namely the Acute/ED/Imaging area.
These departments will see quite the difference in layout compared the the current building. Looking at the right of the above floorplan, you will see Imaging in purple (which my son informed me is actually lavender). Opposed to the straight shot of connected rooms that patients are served in now, the department will actually boast of a dedicated hallway. Multiple restrooms/changing areas will be offered, along with indoor CT scans. That's right, no more getting wheeled outside and up a lift. If you'll be in the market for a CT trailer in a couple years, SEARHC may have one for sale at that point.
In the left of the image, in blue, is the Acute Care wing. Many have questioned this layout, as it offers only four acute rooms. WMC currently offers eight. There's a reason for this, as I've touched upon in previous posts. Data has shown that over the course of the year (about 95% of the time) WMC does not serve more than four acute patients at one time. In fact, the average per day is 2.2 acute patients, with 3.7 patients per day seen during surge times. In short, rarely do we need more than four rooms. But for handful of times we do need five or more beds, these rooms will flex to serve two-per-room, or eight total patients. SEARHC has mentioned potential expansion of the acute wing in the future, and Wold Architects have designed the wing for easy expansion when needed.
That brings us to Emergency. What we're working with at the current facility can get cramped at times. Wold has made the efforts to include not only all ED staff in design discussions for this area, but our local EMTs as well.
In addition to the two-bed Trauma room, the wing has a separate procedure room and a handful of those handy flex rooms. They can flex for additional trauma usage, observation, infusion, wound care, whatever we need.
At the bottom of the above image, you'll see the EMT/Flex. No longer will our EMT's be forced to gather in the halls, as they'll have a dedicated space to better serve our patients. That space will also double for viewing. It was agreed that the current viewing/morgue experience could really be improved upon. SEARHC and Wold is going to offer a more pleasant area for families to have that important time, which will also make our volunteer EMT's lives quite a bit easier.
Below is a bulleted list of Acute/ED/Imaging highlights from the design update. Again, if you want to take a look at the latest design update presentation, you can download it here. Thanks for reading.