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Town hall meeting draws crowd, discussion on hospital renovation

Hot topics include main entry, helipad


Hospital renovation architect Rhonda Wemhoff speaks to the project; behind is Dr. Danny Griffis

Photo by Lorie Palmer.
Hospital renovation architect Rhonda Wemhoff speaks to the project; behind is Dr. Danny Griffis

Syringa Hospital renovation project in five phases

• Phase I is expected to be paid for directly with Webb funds. This includes the main hospital entryway, physicians area, waiting room, reception, part of the administration building, cafeteria, physical therapy, outpatient services and lobby.

• Phase II will be paid for with CEDA block grant funds and the hospital/foundation match. This includes eight exam rooms at the clinic, expanded pharmacy, nurses report room, staff lounge and inpatient nurses station.

• Phase III includes private check in and out areas and designates an exam room for nurses visit, immunizations, etc.

• Phases IV and V add two more exam rooms, staff break room and a conference area.

A full detailed plan and architectural renderings can be obtained at Syringa Hospital, 983-1700.

GRANGEVILLE – A covered drive-through entrance, the loss of longtime trees and a helipad designation were the main hot topics at a June 12 Syringa Hospital meeting.

More than 70 people showed up at the Grangeville Senior Citizens Center to discuss hospital renovation plans.

Syringa Hospital lies in a taxing district that collects about $500,000 a year from patrons within Idaho County. The meeting was meant to give area residents a chance to weigh in on an upcoming five-phase remodel and renovation project using funds left to Syringa from the estate of Orrin and Eleanora Webb.

Patrons began at a table with Syringa CEO Joe Cladouhos and visited with other hospital and clinic staff and board and foundation members, then settled into a Q&A session with a panel of various hospital representatives.

“To start off I want to remind you that each trustee is elected to the board and has constituents to answer to in our respective areas, not just those in Grangeville but those across the whole district,” said board member Al Bolden of White Bird. “We have a common goal of providing quality health care for our community.”

Questions were initially written on 3-by-5 cards and passed to the panel. The first two comments were similar, stating, “Please consider the grand entrance might be too much – we like the landscaping; we do not like all the pavement.”

Architect Rhonda Wemhoff of Cottonwood told the audience “many, many revisions” had been made on this design during the past year.

“The board felt the hospital needs to create a covered, professional main entry,” she explained. “In addition, ITD [Idaho Transportation Department] was not happy with a main entrance that came off the side of the hospital by Pallenque’s Restaurant. They felt the best design included the main entry off Main Street.”

Dr. Danny Griffis also spoke to concerns about the entrance.

“Before coming to Grangeville I worked in a similarly-sized critical care hospital and I have to say I’m excited because I’ve seen a plan such as this put in place and work great,” Griffis said. “I believe, though difficult, the landscaping tradeoffs will be worth it in the end.”

EMT and maintenance supervisor Bill Spencer spoke to the overall plan that also includes closing off the current emergency room (ER) entrance to the public.

“Ten years ago we had about 200 calls in a year; last year it was closer to 500,” he said. “Patients shouldn’t be exposed with the general public able to sit there and text or Facebook about who they see coming in and out of the ER.”

The loss of two trees – a cottonwood that has some rot and disease issues already and a healthy oak – was mentioned with little discussion.

“One of the concerns – though it is separate from the renovation project – is the helipad proposal for the former Ernie’s Steakhouse parking lot area across from Syringa,” Bolden said.

Griffis spoke to the medical benefits of having a helipad so close.

“From a medical perspective, there is data that shows for cardiac, trauma and stroke especially, time makes a huge difference,” he said, saying that transport to the Idaho County Airport in Grangeville adds 20-25 minutes to that time. “Rapid access by air to specific medical centers has an enormous advantage medically.”

Patron Dixie Johnson said McCall does not have a helipad outside of the airport and Griffis reemphasized, “Time is of the essence.”

“What if, God forbid, there’s a crash? Helicopters do crash,” said patron Poof Wagner. “With a gas station right there, it just doesn’t seem safe.”

Spencer explained the Lifeflight is held to “very high” standards and in inclement weather they or a place would fly in to the airport.

Another patron asked about the possibility of a helipad being placed on the roof of the hospital.

Barry Rourk, a contractor hired to help with the renovation process, explained this would be a “very expensive endeavor,” as the hospital was originally built in 1939.

“It would take many modifications from the foundation up, and even then, structurally it might not work,” he said.

“Having hotels, I do have a concern with noise,” said Super 8/Gateway owner Ted Lindsley.

“I think we need to consider a little inconvenience is just that – a little inconvenience – to save a person’s life,” said Bolden, stating there would probably be two-to-three trasnports per month at the helipad.

Grangeville resident Kim Chenoweth said her complaint was “mainly visual.”

“I like the current entrance to our town and also feel a helicopter landing on Main Street would be a huge distraction to [U.S. 95] traffic,” she said. “I also don’t know if the minutes saved are worth it – I feel the same care is happening in an ambulance as in a helicopter.”

“So you’re second-guessing our medical staff?” Bolden questioned.

“I just like the way the entrance to our town looks right now,” Chenoweth answered.

Patron Mary Beth Meyers stated she is in support of the entire renovation, likes the idea of a covered entry-way, and would rather have her loved ones transported more quickly than worry about the distraction.

Wagner added her daughter received “great care” at Syringa but would still like to see the hospital obtain “some sort of machinery that no other hospital has rather than spent money on a grand entryway.”

“I want something that draws in new patients,” she said.

Charge nurse Cindy Daly said she was excited about an area that provides a main entryway and privatizes the ER entrance.

“People need the privacy to be able to be ill and injured, and families need the privacy and dignity to be with a loved one who is dying without just anyone looking on,” she said.

Foundation member Kristi Brooks – the daughter of the late Dr. Jack Soltman – spoke to several issues.

“First, when I bring my 94-year-old mother to the hospital for labs or whatever reason, we need a covered entrance. This will benefit all our patients,” she said.

“Secondly, I love your hotel Ted, and have stayed there many times in the past, but come on – the logging trucks go by on the highway 24-7 and they’re loud,” she smiled at Lindsley who nodded.

“Third, we live on the Camas Prairie and there is no greater distraction than the crop dusters. The helicopter may add a little, but let’s face it – the distraction is already there,” she stated.

Plans are for hospital renovation to start this summer and continue two to three years through completion of all phases.

Last week the Idaho County Commissioners unanimously approved sponsoring the hospital’s application for an Idaho Community Block Grant in 2015. The grant application requires a 50-percent matching from the hospital or foundation. The Grangeville City Council also recently offered support for the renovation project.

SIDEBAR:

Additional info:

Phase I is expected to be paid for directly with Webb funds. This includes the main hospital entry-way, physicians area, waiting room, reception, part of the administration building, cafeteria, physical therapy, outpatient services and lobby.

Phase II will be paid for with CEDA block grant funds and the hospital/foundation match. This includes eight exam rooms at the clinic, expanded pharmacy, nurses report room, staff lounge and inpatient nurses station.

Phase III includes private check in and out areas and designates an exam room for nurses visit, immunizations, etc.

Phases IV and V add two more exam rooms, staff break room and a conference area.

A full detailed plan and architectural renderings can be obtained at Syringa Hospital, 983-1700.

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