MCMC’s tradition of leading-edge care will soon enter a new era with
the construction of a state- of-the-art patient care facility.
When The Dalles General Hospital opened on 19th street in 1959, it marked
a new era of healthcare in the Mid-Columbia region.
Brought to reality by the generous donations of local citizens, business
owners, physicians and staff, who shared the vision of a new medical center
to serve the growing community, the new facility was described as one
of the most modern in the country. It featured mechanized patient beds,
an electrified physician registry that alerted staff to when doctors were
in or out of the building and the latest in mercury vapor illumination
to light the parking lot.
It was a hospital to be proud of, and indeed the community was. Use of
the facility was heavy, and only 20 years later another 20,000 square
feet had to be added to accommodate more patients, staff, technology and services.
In the early 1990s the facility, now called Mid-Columbia Medical Center
to better reflect the wide geographic area it had grown to serve, was
enhanced cosmetically and in many ways reorganized to accommodate the
hospital’s new focus on care that served its patients’ emotional,
spiritual, environmental and intellectual needs, in addition to their
That project, which ushered in the innovative Planetree philosophy that
led to MCMC receiving international acclaim as a leader in patient-centered
healthcare, was the last significant construction project undertaken within
the walls of the hospital.
This is not to say the hospital has not continued to modernize. From adding
new technology and specialty care to ensuring staff are up to date on
the latest advances in their care disciplines, MCMC has remained one of
the most innovative hospitals of its size anywhere.
But the same cannot be said about the facility itself. Twenty-five years
approaches an eternity when it comes to hospital physical plants, where
advances come quickly and traffic is always heavy and around-the-clock.
While MCMC has been at its current location since 1959, its roots go back
to 1901, when physicians Dr. Belle Cooper Rinehart and Dr. Mary Powell
Johnson opened the first hospital in The Dalles in the Rinehart family
home. By 1903 Rinehart had married Dr. Elmer Ferguson and expanded their
home in order to enlarge what became The Dalles General Hospital.
Only nine years later, another expansion was required. Change came fast
back then, and it is light-years faster now.
So it is that a quarter century after the last major upgrade at MCMC, it
is now time to announce the most significant construction project in the
100-plus year history of the hospital.
The process of designing, financing and ultimately constructing a new patient-care
facility is well under way.
By the time the new hospital “tower” is completed (estimated
to be late 2019 or early 2020), the Mid-Columbia region will have benefited
from a major development project that will inject into the local economy
millions of dollars in new construction jobs and related activity. And
the communities MCMC serves will benefit from a state-of-the-art healthcare
facility that will ensure the hospital’s long tradition of providing
leading-edge, high-quality healthcare continues well into the future.
The project began in 2011 when the MCMC Board of Trustees directed the
hospital administrative team to retain the services of an architectural
and engineering firm called HFR to explore the feasibility of building
a new patient facility.
“This hospital has served us well, but it has been showing its age
for a lot of years,” explained MCMC President and CEO Duane Francis.
“We got to a point where we could no longer afford to just continue
thinking about the day when we would need to build a new hospital. We
had start to making plans now.”
HFR presented several options for a new hospital, including building on
a site away from 19th street. Ultimately, expanding MCMC’s footprint
at its existing location was found to be the most financially feasible option.
After HFR and MCMC staff developed a project scope, a construction firm
was engaged to help develop a general design and budget, which was estimated
at approximately $55 million (2015) dollars.
According to Francis, the project will be funded from a combination of
sources. The vast majority of the funds (85 percent) will come from private
debt issue by MCMC, most likely in the form of long-term tax-exempt bonds.
The rest of the project will be funded from a combination of hospital
reserves and private grants and donations.
Francis said that the project will have zero effect on local taxpayers.
“Absolutely no public funding or tax revenues will be used,”he stressed.
Like the Planetree remodel, the project will be designed to accommodate
new models of care at MCMC, says Vice President William Hamilton, M.D.,
who is overseeing the project.
The new facility positions MCMC well to accommodate the changes in acute
inpatient care that will come as part of the nationwide trend toward a
model of care called population health management as well as a new payment
system built around something called value-based care. (Watch for more
details about these programs and how they are being implemented at MCMC
in future issues of Well Aware.)
The tower will house 24 private acute care beds for medical-surgical, intensive
care and telemetry patients, as well as a new surgery department, including
four new operating rooms, a pre-operative clinic and same day surgery
area as well a new post-op recovery department.
In addition to the new patient tower, the existing hospital will remain
intact to house administrative services and some clinical services that
will be upgraded in their current locations, such as the Emergency Department.
“The Emergency Department will be remodeled and expanded,”
Dr. Hamilton said. “We plan to adapt a new model of care in the
department that will feature rapid assessment and triage areas. With the
addition of these, patients will no longer have to wait to be initially
seen. Someone will attend to them and assess their condition immediately
when they walk in.”
Dr. Hamilton added that MCMC’s First Impressions birthing center
will either undergo a major renovation in its current location on the
hospital’s main (second) floor or will be relocated into the new
MCMC is now in the process of exploring the best financing options for
the new facility, Dr. Hamilton said. The goal is to have financing secured
mid-2017 and to begin construction in the mid-fall of 2017. Construction
will take 22 to 24 months.
The next new era of healthcare in the Mid-Columbia is beginning to take shape.