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Harrison eyes 10th Avenue site for Poulsbo campus
POULSBO — For some North End residents, trips for necessary medical care are more than an hour’s drive away. However, if all goes as proposed, the trip could be as close as a two-minute drive from the Central Market grocery store in Poulsbo.
As of Monday, Tom Kruse, Harrison Medical Center’s vice president of strategy and business development, said Harrison is negotiating with Poulsbo city officials for seven acres near Powder Hill — located off of Highway 305, Lincoln and 10th Avenue — for an additional 50,000 square-foot medical campus.
Harrison currently has campuses located in Silverdale, Bremerton and Port Orchard.
The Poulsbo campus, estimated at $25 million, would include urgent and primary care facilities and a 15,000 square foot center for cancer outpatient treatment.
“We’ve just initiated the proposal last week,” Kruse said. “We’ve been talking about this for several months but we’ve only recently pursued the city site.”
By creating a campus in Poulsbo, Kruse said the goal is to reach more clientele in the North End region, including Bainbridge Island residents who normally seek medical treatment in Seattle.
“(Poulsbo) is a fairly central location in the northern area. It’s a central point in the center of everything else, just like they call it Central Market,” he said. “To ask a patient to travel long distances frequently is a burden. By taking services more into the community, more patients will have access to the services they need.”
The location, Kruse said, is ideally located near the Poulsbo Fire Department. If needed, an emergency ambulance is less than a minute away.
“When you need it, minutes matter and that will make a difference,” he said.
Ed Stern, Poulsbo city council member, was aware Harrison was seeking a site for an additional center and said he is thrilled Poulsbo is the desired location.
“We are very excited about the proposal. It could put Poulsbo at a real crossroads in Western Washington,” Stern said.
Another cancer outpatient center is necessary to accommodate the increasing number of cancer patients, said Dr. Charles Springate, a radiation oncologist for Harrison.
“Cancer is very common. It’s probably going to surpass heart disease soon,” he said.
Statistically, Springate said there will be more cancer patients as Baby Boomers age into their 60s and because of the area’s appeal as a retirement community.
The cancer outpatient clinic proposed for the Poulsbo campus would house a linear accelerator, a $2 million device that delivers radiation doses to the tumor site in the body.
Currently there are two machines at Harrison’s Bremerton campus.
“Even if that Poulsbo machine isn’t that busy from the start, the population dynamics are changing. That machine will eventually be at full capacity,” Springate said.
Currently the two machines treat an average of 30 people daily.
“We can only treat so many patients at a time and they have to go through the course of treatment which can last two to eight weeks. There are too many people and not enough time in the day,” he said, adding the machines are now running about nine hours each day.
Springate said one machine is enough to serve a community with a population of 100,000 people.
“Kitsap is now 200,000 to 300,000 people so (three machines) does make sense,” he said.
Kruse said data provided by Oncology Solutions, based in Atlanta, verified the overall need for another medical treatment center in the north part of the county.
The needs cited, he said, were the population rise and the increasing number of people who can no longer afford to leave the county for medical care.
According to the Washington State Office of Financial Management, the April 2008 population estimate of Kitsap County is 246,800 — up 14,800 people since the 2000 census of 232,000.
“We don’t spend money because we want to but because of the community need,” Kruse said. “The community is growing so much and people are leaving the county less and less for care. The numbers are exceeding our projections.”
Kruse said Harrison’s overall patient market share has grown from 71 percent three years ago to 74 percent in 2007.
“We see over 70,000 patients each year,” he said.
Center would help pay for new city hall
The proposal is a plus for Poulsbo, said Stern, citing the benefits and additional tax revenue the medical center would bring to the city.
“The city is executing on an economic development vision,” he said. “Finally the city can take all the sales tax and property surplusing revenues to dramatically underwrite the cost of our new city hall downtown.”
Stern said millions of dollars from the center’s tax revenue would help pay for the new city hall — “the cornerstone to downtown revitilization” — currently projected to cost the city upwards of $17 million.
Besides monetary gain, Stern said the center would create high-paying jobs.
“It’s bringing into Poulsbo high-skill and high paying jobs and support jobs,” -e said. “In turn this provides a huge quality of life enhancement for our residents and a big boost to our local economy.”
Kruse said the number of employees he expects to hire isn’t yet known.
“There are a number of employees living in our community working in Seattle and Tacoma area hospitals and we’re hoping to attract those people to stay in our area,” he said. “But we need to create an environment that meets the caregivers’ standards, which is what we are doing in some of our outpatient projects.”
Poulsbo city council members will still go through the development proposal and seek fair market value for the property.
Specific plan details haven’t yet been viewed and there will be a designated public comment period.
“This has been unfolding for 10 years — the idea where the council took the reigns in business creation and economics and this is coming in the midst of the worst economic downfall for this generation. It’s going to dominate Highway 305 in scale, size and importance,” Stern said. Laughing he added, “If the city accepts the proposal, we might have to change Powder Hill to Pill Hill.”