With an opening anticipated to be four months away, one local dignitary and a handful of others got to take a peek inside the under-construction orthopaedic wing at Harrison Medical Center in Silverdale last week.
Taking the opportunity of having U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, on site for a “Kilmer at Your Company” townhall meeting last Thursday, hospital officials gave Kilmer a tour of the 54,000-square-foot building that is set to open in September.
Hospital officials said they anticipate more than 2,600 surgeries such as knee, hip and shoulder replacements to be performed in the new wing during the first year that it is open.
The Orthopaedic Center at Harrison, as it will be called, will have four state-of-the-art oversized surgical suites built to accommodate surgical technology for orthopaedics of today and well into the future. It will open with 24 patient rooms that will include rehabilitative equipment and non-threshold flooring to aid in patient’s mobility during the first few days after surgery. Future expansion may add more patient rooms if needed, hospital officials said.
The design of the center took into account the needs of ortho patients including fold-down from the wall night stands and pocket doors to allow for easy getting around the room. Bathing and toilet areas are right near the beds so patients don’t have to walk far in the first hours after surgery.
Included in the rooms are nooks and alcoves to provide better space for family to sit when visiting. Rooms also can accommodate family members overnight.
Families also will play a role in the patient’s recovery by assisting them with daily walks on a track that circles past the patient rooms. This track doubles as a hallway but will not have carts or other items stashed in it so that patients can rehab more easily.
Hospital officials said with family helping in the hours and days after surgery patients will more likely be able to go home sooner and that will help keep healthcare costs down.
Leading the tour was Harrison CEO Scott Bosch and Chief Medical Officer Gordon Cromwell. One of the highlights was a tour of the outdoor rooftop garden that has a beautiful view of the Olympic mountains. It is there that patients will learn how to negotiate a rehab trail that will mimic the outdoors with wet and uneven surfaces and ramps.
Prior to the tour, Kilmer met with about 50 hospital employees in a question-and-answer session where any topic was fair game.
Kilmer said the question he is most often asked when he comes home to Washington state is “Is it as bad as it looks?” referring to the Congressional stalemate in Washington D.C.
“In a recent poll, Congress was less popular than colonoscopies and head lice,” he said. “But we’re just above cockroaches.”
Kilmer said much of that feeling comes from Congress’s action on the sequester.
“Sequestration is dumb,” he said. “It’s really stupid. It has had huge affects on the local population here as elsewhere in the country.”
Kilmer said he spend time with other local employers on this trip back home and acknowledged that the sequester isn’t the way to find a solution to a balanced budget. He said the solution is bipartisanship.
“There are a few groups in Congress that are working on that and making some progress,” Kilmer said. “One of those is the New Democrats which is a moderate pro-business group of Democrats. Another is a bipartisan working group of members of the (U.S.) House.
“So to answer the question, ‘Yes, in many ways it is as bad as it looks. But there is hope.”
Kilmer fielded some questions from hospital employees related to the Affordable Care Act, and said that while he supported it, he wants to continue the conversation about how it is implemented.
“There’s a lot of it that I like,” he said. “I am a parent with a daughter with a pre-existing condition. I like that aspect of it and I like that students can stay on their parents health insurance longer and that more preventative healthcare is covered. But I also know that you all are getting plummeted with what happens as it gets implemented.”
Kilmer said Harrison provides important good paying jobs in the community and that he wants to help the hospital with the healthcare act to protect those jobs.
Bosch said the hospital employs 2,400 people and is second-only to the Navy as a major employer in Kitsap County. He said the hospital faces balancing fee-for-service to fee-for-value that can be conflicting at times.
“We’re going to get hit with Medicare cuts and it may be hard to keep employment at the same levels,” he said.
One employee asked Kilmer how, as a parent, she can explain to her children the sometimes terrible behavior of Congress.
“Elected officials should be a model of good behavior,” she said. “I don’t see that.”
Kilmer said he still sees an aspiration by elected officials to work together.
“Some in opposing parties are going back home and having joint townhall meetings in an attempt to show that they will work together,” he said. “With actions like that and with the bipartisan groups working together, we can move the needle. We have to. We can’t afford not to.”
Kilmer had held more than a dozen “Kilmer at Your Company” townhalls since being elected. He said he plans to continue the workplace meetings.