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First, heal thyself

Legacy Mount Hood Medical center preps for $9 million project
by: Shanda Tice, From right, Hospital Administrator Bryce Helgerson and Georgia Frey, emergency department manager, look over blueprints for the hospital’s planned expansion this summer. “It’s going to be really nice,” predicted Frey. Patient visits shot up 11 percent in 2006, compared to the previous year.

Responding to an increase in patients, Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center will break ground this summer on an 18-month, $9 million expansion and renovation.

Both the hospital's emergency room and parking lot will double in size, the helipad will be relocated and a host of remodeling touches will be performed, said Bryce Helgerson, hospital administrator. A healing garden is also planned.

During a tour of the state's eighth busiest hospital Thursday, March 22, Helgerson said patient visits increased 11 percent last year compared to 2005.

The emergency department treats about 120 people a day, but on a Sunday in February, 170 patients went through the department - an all-time high.

'The demand is really there, and it's a pretty small space,' he said.

The emergency department has 15 beds but will have 30 after the expansion. Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center is the only hospital in Gresham, which saw a 6-percent increase in population from 2000 to 2003, according to census information. In all, the center treated 5,174 patients in 2006, a figure that excludes outpatient care.

The emergency department will also get two more critical care bays, for a total of six, and pediatric-oriented rooms, as well as a pediatric physician. Pediatric training for nurses will also increase, Helgerson said.

'People are going to continue to use the ER as their primary care,' he said.

Plans call for a wind-blocking wall to be erected near the new emergency-room entrance to protect against the east wind when patients are transported from ambulances.

Helgerson said the tile floors in other departments will be replaced with wood flooring that offers patients and staff better footing. The 20-year-old carpet on the fourth floor, home to medical and surgical units, will be replaced with vinyl flooring. The material offers better infection control, Helgerson said.

The fourth-floor family visiting area now has a flat-screen television donated by one of the hospital's more than 300 volunteers and will soon receive new artwork and furniture.

'It just really improves the image. It should be a nice place to be,' Helgerson said.

A second level will be built over the emergency department to house an expanded intensive-care department.

'Placing the new ICU space right over the (emergency department) would have the additional benefit of transporting patients quicker and more efficiently,' says a hospital press release.

Paper charts will also become a thing of the past, Helgerson said, as the hospital switches to a computerized charting system.

Fund-raising events are also being planned for a healing garden, said Carol Blankenship, the interim director of patient care services. The garden, to be built in front of the hospital, will alleviate the feelings of confinement children feel when a relative is getting treated.

It will also serve doctors and nurses who need a break after traumatic incidents, Blankenship said.

'The garden will heal the soul and the heart, which is something that doctors can't do,' she said.

The expansion and renovation, the third in the facility's 23-year history, is funded from the hospital's $61.7 million operating budget. It is scheduled to be complete by sometime in 2009.