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Sacred Heart, state agree to scaled-down expansion

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center may add 75 new patient beds after reaching a proposed settlement with state health officials.

Such an expansion would make Sacred Heart a 719-bed hospital, but at a cost to sister hospital Holy Family, which would surrender 25 of its beds under the terms of the agreement announced Wednesday afternoon.

The deal will have to withstand a 30-day comment period and then receive final approval by the hospital and the Washington State Department of Health, which licenses and regulates the number of beds allowed in a community.

It’s a compromise that would give Sacred Heart about half the acute care beds it initially sought 18 months ago when executives unveiled a plan to add four floors to the hospital’s west wing, broaden its emergency room and build two more floors atop it.

Deaconess Medical Center protest the plan, saying Sacred Heart’s request was unnecessary and a threat to its own efforts to financially rehabilitate and fill unused beds.

State health regulators denied Sacred Heart’s request last summer, though they did allow the hospital to add 21 nursery care beds.

Sacred Heart then lost its request for reconsideration and filed an appeal. At the time, Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, chief executive of Sacred Heart parent company Providence Health Care, signaled that the hospital was ready to negotiate a less aggressive expansion plan.

“We are pleased with this proposed settlement agreement for 75 beds, as it allows us to fulfill our unwavering commitment to ensure the health care needs of residents throughout our region,” Agwunobi said in a prepared statement.

Sacred Heart did not disclose new construction plans or cost estimates.

And Deaconess officials declined to comment on the latest development.

Sacred Heart has been routinely full and its emergency room visits have soared, said spokeswoman Maureen Goins.

The hospital pressed state health officials to review the numbers – including population growth projections, the rising number of older residents, and the resulting demand for more hospitalizations. Sacred Heart also emphasized its role in the planning for a medical school in Spokane and the need for specialty training.