PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center adds new ORs, clinical space

August 1, 2016

PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center on Revillagigedo Island in Southeast Alaska opened its latest expansion project in June. The 72,000-square-foot addition, built at a cost of more than $60 million, includes three new operating rooms to replace outdated ones, expanded room for pre- and postsurgical care, more clinical office space and additional parking.

Ketchikan, Alaska, Mayor Lew Williams III commends those involved in the planning and construction of the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center expansion at an opening ceremony June 25. Held in the facility's new garage, it was followed by a community picnic in the structure.

Ken Tonjes, the medical center's chief administrative officer, said PeaceHealth Ketchikan had sought to expand and modernize, particularly its operating rooms, for about a decade. The floor-to-ceiling heights in the old operating rooms would not accommodate some modern equipment, such as ceiling-mounted technology and lighting. The new operating rooms are double the size of the old ones.

He credited a collaboration between federal, state and city government and the support of area residents for funding the expansion. Tonjes said the federal government awarded a $1 million grant toward the project, an additional $18 million was given in state funding and city voters in 2014 approved the extension of a policy to apply a percentage of a sales tax to health services in Ketchikan. He said that allowed for the approval of a $43 million bond to help pay for the project.

PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center Foundation board member Joe Williams Jr. and CHA President and Chief Executive Officer Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, with a ceremonial drum depicting a patient being healed by a medicine man. Ketchikan Indian Community President Irene Dundas presented the drum to Williams, who offered the closing blessing at a ceremony celebrating the expansion of Ketchikan Medical Center.

"I couldn't be more thrilled with the outcome," he said, particularly because of the community support. "It's important to take care of one another, and medical care is part of that equation."

He said the expansion project allowed the medical center to "about double" its space. The three new operating rooms are in a new building, which also houses additional clinical office space.

There are currently 28 physicians employed by the medical center. The additional exam room space will allow more patients to be seen in a day. There's also more work space for support staff, some of whom had been in tight quarters, sharing offices.

The hospital's bed count — with 25 acute-care beds and 29 long-term care beds — remains unchanged, he said.

Recruitment tool
Tonjes said Southeast Alaska is a beautiful area, but recruiting and retaining physicians is always a challenge. "Now we also have a facility that is a draw," he said. The medical center's staff surgeons include two general surgeons, two orthopedic surgeons and three obstetrician/gynecologists. Some specialists, such as a cardiologist, enterologist and gastroenterologist travel to be on site a few days a month to see patients. He said the medical center may add some new specialties, such as dermatology, in the future.

Tonjes said the community's support for the hospital allows PeaceHealth to continue to provide care options, such as an intensive care unit, in the remote region. Patients in need of specialty care, such as neurology or sometimes cardiology, must travel hundreds of miles to Anchorage, Alaska; Seattle or Bellingham, Wash. "You can't just drive down the street to the next hospital," he noted.

Conversion of the old operating room space to meet other needs will be addressed in a second, smaller phase of the project, he said.


Copyright © 2016 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2016 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.