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Enumclaw Hospital 6 Months Old

Statistics vary on its success, but officials say there is no denying improved treatment for patients.

The $75 million St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw just turned 6 months old, and like any newborn it has had its growing pains.

But overall, like most parents, hospital officials are proud of what they've produced.

Statistics show actual births are about the same rate as at the old Enumclaw Regional Hospital, while emergency visits are up some but outpatient services are down significantly.

"Numbers are down because of the economy," hospital president Dennis Popp said, adding that insurance companies nationally are making it harder to get some procedures done.

But Popp and Shelley Prico, patient services director, say the number of patients is not what it is all about. It is about the quality of care patients get and making it a positive experience for their families.

"It's over a long period of time the good it does for the community," Popp said.

Two areas stand out at the hospital. Today, Patch will report on how the hospital was built with the patient and family in mind to make it a positive experience for both. Friday, Patch will report on the up-to-date technology and other improvements compared with the old hospital to make it an improved place to get treatment.

Popp said the new hospital was built to ensure respect for patients.

"It's about their back side not showing when they are walking down the hall," he said. "Everything is private."

Instead of curtains, rooms have glass doors with a privacy stripe to obscure vision.

Also, there are designated areas for every type of treatment for patients. In the old hospital, staff often had to check to see what room was empty.

"It was awkward for staff," Popp said.

Prico said families of patients love that the new hospital rooms are large, with one part for family and the other for patient and staff. On every floor one side of the building is waiting area – the old hospital had just a main one. The other side of each floor contains patient rooms so they have the mountain views. Staff and treatment rooms are in the middle.

"My biggest joy is the feedback from patients' families," Prico said.

Media relations manager Gale Robinette talked about the "quiet sense of peace" at the hospital as it is painted hues of green and brown.

"It's an extension of the outside environment," Popp added.

Prico praised the looks of the new building, with lots of windows to let in natural light, even on a dark, cloudy day.

The building has won a number of awards already, including one for being environmental friendly.

"We've cut down on our carbon footprint," Popp said.

Prico said the old hospital was so cramped that even the chapel had to be used for something else. The new chapel gets quite a bit of use.

“Staff loves it,” she said, adding during construction workers put blessings on the other side of the walls that cannot be seen.

Also popular with visitors are historic photographs of Enumclaw, Buckley and Black Diamond that hang on the walls of some waiting areas. Other aesthetic features include a quilt from the old hospital and various pieces of artwork. There are wide, open halls; even alcoves are used for supplies to reduce obstruction. And there is a healing garden where patients and families can relax.

Prico said the looks of a building effect patient health.

"Studies show patients equate their care to the building," she said, adding even though they received excellent care at the old hospital they didn’t view it to be as good as at the new one.

She also said the public, not just patients, uses the hospital for things such as the cafeteria -- they sell Starbucks coffee -- outdoor patio and educational meetings.

Popp said a recent educational meeting as part of the Franciscan outreach program on diabetes was sold out, standing room only. They used to have to offer such things off site.

Popp said Enumclaw might not even have a hospital if it wasn’t for Congress passing a law 14 years ago for “critical access hospitals.” As a result, small, rural hospitals get financial help from the government. Popp said about 1,400 rural hospitals nationwide would have gone out of business without that aid.

Getting a new hospital was one of the reasons Enumclaw Regional Hospital went from being independent to signing on with the Franciscan Health System. A new hospital was needed, but
funding for one would have been almost impossible otherwise.

One benefit is emmployment: the hospital now has 275 workers, up 100 in the last four years.

Another benefit is doctors.

“We have doctors who only work here,” not at other clinics, Popp said. “It was getting hard to get our own doctors.”

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