In the six years that administrators and consultants at Franciscan Health System spent planning the construction of the state's newest hospital, they searched the country looking for the best new practices and designs in health care to incorporate into Gig Harbor's St. Anthony.
Now, as the 80-bed community hospital nears its anniversary, the hospital, its 545 staff members and thousands of patients have had a chance to see if that planning paid off.
In a little less than a year, 18,121 patients have been treated in the hospital’s emergency department. More than 4,300 patients have been admitted to the hospital, and 2,778 surgeries have been performed. Outpatient visits total 12,484.
The hospital’s average daily bed occupancy is 48 and rising.
Administrators say much of what they planned has functioned nearly perfectly.
But the emergency room patient flow hasn’t worked the way it was planned, and the severity of the problems patients brought to the ER was untypical for a community hospital.
The hospital’s president, Carole Peet, talked with The News Tribune last week about the first year’s successes and challenges.
When St. Anthony opened on March 17, 2009, did the hospital’s daily operation match your high expectations?
I have to tell you it did. We had no computer glitches. All of our systems worked very, very well. I would say that the things that we continue to work on are the processes: how you move in the building, how patients and nurses and doctors move around.
We were able to open two weeks earlier than we had planned. The state Health Department passed the hospital with flying colors. It was the only time that they had surveyed a hospital and had no recommendations for improvement. We were very proud of that.
What have you heard from patients?
We just won a national award for the highest patient satisfaction in a small facility based on our national surveyor called HealthStream. They surveyed 1,500 acute care hospitals across the country, and we were awarded best patient satisfaction in the small hospital category. I think a large component of that is they’re coming in the door and they’re seeing a physician in 10 minutes or less.
And what about the inevitable surprises?
One of the surprising things that’s happened is that we actually see sicker patients than we see in other emergency departments in the system. The way that we know that is that emergency departments triage their patients number one, two, three, four and five with five being your least sick patients. We see very few level four and five triage patients here. There are some reasons for that if you think about it. We have two urgent cares right here in Gig Harbor, and there’s an urgent care up in Port Orchard.
So, I think the community is using those urgent cares properly and when they need an emergency department, they’re coming to our emergency department. So we have a really high admit rate out of our emergency department. Twenty-one percent of the patients that come to our emergency department end up getting admitted to the hospital. An average rate is about 13 percent.
Since you started with a clean sheet of paper to design this hospital, what are some of the features you think make it particularly appealing to patients and staff members?
All of the inpatient rooms are private rooms with 230 square feet. They have a space for the families to sleep and stay overnight.
One of the things that we worked very hard at was creating a more healing environment. Typically when you’re in a hospital there’s overhead paging, and it’s hard to sleep. We don’t do any overhead paging . We have a device called a Vocera that staff members wear around their necks. It’s like a sophisticated little intercom.
One of the other things that we learned in health care is that so many people go in and out of rooms and the patients or families don’t know who all these people are. One of the things that we put in place from the very first day was that all of the staff are color-coded by the scrubs that they wear. We have a sheet in the room that explains the color coding to the patient and the families.
How’s the food? Hospital and airline food seem to have earned a place in most people’s personal hall of infamy.
I’ve been in health care for 30 years. Routinely you hear people complain about the food. That’s just a given. For the first time in 30 years, I get no complaints about the food. We actually have a large contingent of the community that comes here to eat either for lunch or for dinner. And we’re very fortunate to have such a good food and nutrition staff. Our chef actually came from Canterwood and moved over to health care.