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$85 million remodel begins at St. Vincent

Four-year project will improve building safety, look and room size.


TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Providence St. Vincent project manager Amy Brooks (left) gets feedback from nurse Connie Smith as they stand in a 'model' hospital room, which is being used to help guide the remodeling process at the hospital.
The skyline north of Beaverton changed over the weekend as a 230-foot crane rose into view behind Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

For the coming nine months, the crane will help workers put a new face on St. Vincent’s nine-story exterior, the first phase of a four-year renovation dubbed “Project Renew” at Washington County’s largest hospital.

Since opening in 1971, the hospital’s central building has reached middle age and is starting to look it. When finished in 2019, the exterior will look more like its younger sibling, the connected East Pavilion completed in 2008.

But aesthetics aren’t the main reason for the project: Protecting the building and its occupants is where most of the $85 million is being spent.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Nancy Roberts, chief operating officer at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, discusses the four-year project that will make key improvements at Washington County's largest hospital.Nancy Roberts, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said now is the right time to launch the massive project.

After Kaiser Permanente starting serving its patients at its own new hospital in Hillsboro, St. Vincent currently has enough capacity to shuffle patients away from noisy work areas during the remodel, Roberts said.

But as Washington County’s population increases, she expects demand for the medical center’s 523 beds to increase over the coming five years.

The remodel project includes three major improvements:

• Build a new exterior layer made of aluminum and glass outside of the existing façade, changing not just the look but also providing better weather protection and increased energy efficiency.

• Install additional seismic protection to the existing support structure to better allow the hospital to withstand a potential catastrophic earthquake some experts predict will eventually strike the region.

• Modestly expand and extensively update patient rooms on the sixth through ninth floors (lower floors were previously remodeled).

The three checklist items are interconnected.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Construction workers at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center produce scaffolding so that they can begin an $85 million upgrade at the 1971 hospital.As work is completed on the new outside walls over the coming nine months – creating a brand new “skin” over the older building – crews can start removing the current exterior layer behind it.

That outward expansion, along with an upgrade to the building’s heating and ventilation system, will add about three feet of usable space to the outside edge of each room on the upper floors.

Also during that work, workers will wrap the existing support columns with a carbon poly-fiber material designed to help the structure hold up during a major earthquake.

In the end, the remodeled rooms and bathrooms will be roomier for patients and visitors, not to mention the many types of medical equipment not yet imagined when the hospital’s blueprints were drawn up nearly a half century ago.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - St. Vincent Medical Center put out ballot boxes so employees can vote on their favorite recliner for hospital rooms that will soon be remodeled.Some patients and more than 200 hospital employees – ranging from surgeons to nurses to housekeepers – offered feedback on the new patient room designs after Providence officials set up a mock room to the exact floorplan.

“No one knows our patients more than our frontline people,” said Amy Brooks, the project manager for the operations side of the remodel.

About 80 percent of St. Vincent’s patient rooms are in the main tower. The room remodeling process beginning next year will be completed in a succession of five-month stages, with two half-floors under construction at one time.

During the process, a handful of rooms on the top four floors will be expanded by 50 percent to better accommodate larger patients. That will cut the number of rooms on those floors slightly, but new rooms will come online elsewhere on campus to maintain the total at 523, Roberts said.

Those upper floors subject to full remodels include a variety of medical and surgical recovery rooms. The process in turn will require patients and specialized staff to relocate at times during the coming four years as construction work shifts to different spots around the tower. At times there will be some unavoidable noise, Brooks said.

“That’s a fairly complex process,” said Brooks, but staff will do what it can to minimize the impact. “We’re working really hard.”

Providence Health & Services, St. Vincent’s not-for-profit parent organization, is funding the bulk of the remodeling costs itself, without a capital campaign, Roberts said. The exception is a $1.5 million grant from state’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program, designed to help boost earthquake protection for critical structures in Oregon.

Editor's note: Here are some additional photographs from Providence:This is how Providence St. Vincent Medical Center will look after a major remodel.Workers put together a massive crane to help with the remodel of Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.
By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
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