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By MATT ARMSTRONG
Daily News Staff Writer
While the public got its first peek at the newly constructed addition to the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center over the weekend, Saturday also marked the first time that Kimm Schwartz was able to get a good look at the new facilities.
Schwartz, surgical services manager for the hospital, beamed with excitement during a Saturday morning tour of the new facility in advance of the late-morning ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The 72,000-square-foot addition cost approximately $62 million — a combination of federal and state money, as well as a bond measure approved by local voters — to construct. Planning for the project began about 12 years ago, and construction started in July 2014 according to PeaceHealth spokeswoman Mischa Chernick.
Both the main hospital and the addition are owned by the City of Ketchikan.
The addition — once it opens for business later this year — will replace the hospital’s current surgical space that dates to the early 1960s. It also will double the hospital’s current clinical space.
“It’s just so amazing,” Schwartz said, adding that the new space could help attract surgeons and other healthcare professionals to PeaceHealth.
The new space includes three operating rooms — with the largest being 608 square feet — and the ceiling height in the new surgery wing is tall enough to allow for ceiling-mounted technology and lighting. All rooms have been sized for current standards and allow space for anticipated technological advances in the future, and the spaciousness of the rooms also will support infection prevention, according to Chernick.
There also are new pre-operation and recovery rooms that offer more privacy for patients, according to Schwartz.
“The story I like to tell is we had some patients that were all in our existing space. One was in a corner, another was in a corner and one was across the hall,” Schwartz said. “Somebody asked a person their name, and the other person said, ‘Is that you, Mary?’ and Mary goes, ‘Yeah. Is that you, Joe?’ And Joe says, ‘Yeah it’s me.’ And then somebody in the corner said, ‘Joe, Mary, it’s me, Sam.’
“All these people in different areas could hear each other,” Schwartz added. “It turned out to be a party, we opened the curtains and everybody was happy to see each other, but that’s not what we want to do. We like the idea of having privacy.”
While the addition is mostly done, a corridor connecting the new facility to the main hospital has yet to be built. There also is the potential to construct a helicopter landing pad on the roof in the future, according to Matt Eisenhower, executive director of the hospital foundation and community health development.
“We’re just grateful that today is an exciting day in which our public and our community are going to be able to share this wonderful time together,” Eisenhower said. “The partnership between the city and PeaceHealth has been just a time that we can celebrate. ... To be able to provide a tool to the caregivers at PeaceHealth to provide care for the patients is something that we’re very, very grateful for and (want to) celebrate with the community.”
Sister Andrea Nenzel, chairwoman of the PeaceHealth system board of directors, said during the ceremony that the hospital and its addition is evidence of the “ongoing heritage of the shared ministry of service that is alive and well in Ketchikan.
“ ... It strikes me that this grand opening continues the deep commitment of care that has been the bedrock of this entire community,” Nenzel said.
City of Ketchikan Mayor Lew Williams III, a co-publisher of the Ketchikan Daily News, said during the ceremony that — in his time on the Ketchikan City Council and as mayor — the governing body has always seemed to get along and tried to move in the same direction for the betterment of Ketchikan.
“As a council member and as the mayor, our main focus is, ‘What can we do to keep this town vibrant, moving forward and diversified?’” Williams said. “ ... One thing that’s always strong is health care. We need health care, (and) we have a facility here, we have a great partner in PeaceHealth and we want to always keep it up to date. It’s something that people in this region want to utilize, and that all affects us in our economics and just people wanting to live here.”
Ken Tonjes, chief administrative officer of PeaceHealth Ketchikan, called Saturday a “proud moment” for the leadership and staff of the hospital.
“We’re here to provide the best possible care to our community, and this facility strengthens that ability,” Tonjes said, before thanking several people and entities for their support during the project. “ ... And finally, to all of Ketchikan, for sharing the vision of a community that cares for one another, particularly in times of need, and being willing to step forward and make this need a reality: Thank you.”
Joe Williams Jr., a former Ketchikan Gateway Borough mayor and a member of the hospital foundation board, and Ketchikan Indian Community President Irene Dundas presented PeaceHealth officials with a ceremonial Native drum depicting a medicine man healing a patient near the end of the ceremony.
The ceremonial ribbon was cut by representatives of both caregivers and patients. They were: Dr. David Johnson, a longtime doctor in the pediatrics clinic; Jennifer Johnson, a registered nurse in the surgery department; Michael Cessnun, who has been a patient of PeaceHealth; and Marna Cessnun, who is on the hospital’s patient and family advisory council.
A community barbecue and tours of the new facility followed the ceremony.