Local news

Hospital tries again on expansion

Sacred Heart asks state to reconsider denial

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center has asked state regulators to reconsider the hospital’s expansion plans.

While Sacred Heart won approval for 21 new intermediate care nursery beds, the Washington state Department of Health foiled Sacred Heart’s big plans to add 152 adult acute care beds.

“What we’re doing allows us to make the case that the grounds do exist, at the very least, for the addition of some beds,” said Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, chief executive of Sacred Heart.

The $175 million expansion would have added four floors to the hospital’s west wing, broadened its emergency room and topped that with two more floors.

Executives at rival Deaconess Medical Center complained that the plans threatened to scuttle their efforts to rehabilitate their own hospital.

The new owners of Deaconess have committed to spend $100 million on renovations and upgrades. Some of those plans could be outlined this autumn.

State health officials use a complex method to determine how many patient beds a community needs based on population and demographic trends.

Their findings showed a surplus of beds among Spokane County’s four large hospitals, so they rejected Sacred Heart’s application that would have made it the largest hospital in Washington within six years.

Agwunobi said Friday he hopes to better illustrate the community’s need for more beds at Sacred Heart. Among them: Sacred Heart is going to be the only high-level trauma center in Spokane starting Sept. 1.

That means that the hospital will be the go-to facility for people with life-threatening emergencies. Such traumas include people critically hurt in car crashes and gunshot victims.

He also noted how busy Sacred Heart has been.

As of Thursday night, there were 550 patients occupying beds at Sacred Heart. Of those, about 100 were children and some were in the psychiatric unit. By 10 a.m. Friday, he said, the numbers had likely swollen to more than 600.

“Essentially, we’re full,” he said. “In this community, a bed is not just a bed. Sacred Heart provides advanced specialized care that’s not available anywhere else in the city … you cannot necessarily replace or substitute a bed here for a bed at Deaconess or Holy Family Hospital. That’s just a practical reality.”

Agwunobi said the reconsideration effort will allow Sacred Heart to better make its case – perhaps allowing it to fall back on a less aggressive plan that would add fewer beds than initially proposed.

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