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Clackamas draws health system growth

Confronted with changing demographics across the Eastland, the region's three hospitals each began the new year adapting in different ways - one going deep, one going wide and one going big.

Go deep

Embedded in built-out Milwaukie at the region's northern edge, Providence Milwaukie Hospital looks to draw more patients by adding more services. Specifically, the hospital will add a hyperbaric chamber to its facilities this spring.

'It's something that isn't available in Clackamas County at this point,' said Renee King, public affairs coordinator at the hospital. 'We're really looking to provide what's missing in the community.'

A boon for bent deep sea divers, the hyperbaric chamber will be used primarily to treat non-healing wounds by increasing the level of oxygen in the patient's damaged tissues.

'We are seeing an increase in wound treatment here at the hospital,' King said. 'We used to have a wound care nurse here on a part-time basis, but now it's a full time position.'

The increase does not come because the citizens of Milwaukie getting wounded more frequently than before, but rather a deliberate effort by the hospital to develop new services and build awareness in the community.

'The hospital looks at what services aren't available locally,' said King. 'That's how we decided to add the sleep lab - people needed to travel quite a ways before. We look at what will make healthcare more convenient for the community we serve.'

Go wide

Convenience and patient access is also top-of-mind for Willamette Falls Hospital, which is opening a new facility in Canby this summer.

'We opened an urgent care center on Sunnyside Road in 1989 and that has been very successful and sees about 25,000 patients a year,' said hospital spokesperson Shari Kinghan. 'Canby is an extension of that model - moving services out to where the patients live.'

The new building is scheduled to open in July, and in addition to an urgent care clinic, it will also provide diagnostic imaging, occupational health services, physicians offices' and a clinical laboratory.

At the hospital itself, atop the hill in Oregon City, Kinghan reported little growth overall with specific increases in areas driven by demographic shifts in the community.

'Patient volumes have remained fairly consistent over the past few years,' she said. 'The emergency department continues to grow, as do outpatient services. We expect patient volumes will grow as more households are added to the area.

'Demographics will definitely have an impact. We expect the young families moving into the area will affect our obstetrics services and as individuals age, they tend to utilize more services as they develop acute and chronic health problems.'

Go big

Serving fast growing Clackamas, and with nearby Damascus and Boring poised for explosive growth, the Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center is in the midst of a major expansion - adding a new 200,000-square-foot patient wing that will increase the overall size of the hospital by 50 percent.

'When the urban growth boundary was expanded to the east, we knew that the county would not only continue to grow as it always has, but that the pace of growth would increase dramatically,' said Jim Gershbach, media and community relations manager a the hospital.

'This hospital was designed to be expandable,' he said. 'It was built with a patient care wing, but there was room set aside for two more. We always envisioned that, rather than building a whole new hospital, we would just add to the existing one.'

The first major expansion took place in 1983, just eight years after it opened, but then something unexpected happened. Thanks to advances in medical technology, patients could recover from surgery much quicker.

'If the length of stay used to be a week, it's now a day,' said Gershbach. 'The length of stay stabilized at these low levels, but the population continued to grow.

'We had avoided the expense of capital projects for 20 years through the better use of available resources, but it finally caught up with us.'