State approves St. Francis Hospital expansion

State approves St. Francis expansion

St. Francis Hospital announced June 18 that the state has approved its request for an additional 36 in-patient beds and increased nursery capabilities.

The Washington State Department of Health's approval came June 12, and if no appeals are made to the state by July 10, St. Francis Hospital can proceed in its efforts to provide better care to its patients, Franciscan Health System spokesman Gale Robinette said.

St. Francis Hospital, a member of the Franciscan Health System, submitted an application requesting the beds and expanded nursery care in September 2006.

On March 30, the Washington State Department of Health held a public hearing on the matter. St. Francis doctors and representatives as well as Federal Way residents made their case for the beds and nursery care during this hearing.

St. Francis Hospital was unable to submit 600 people in 2005 because of the lack of beds to treat the patients, said Syd Bersante, St. Francis CEO, at the hearing.

With the additional beds, the hospital will now have 146 beds. It does not expect to need more beds until the year 2022, St. Francis Hospital representative Jody Carona said at the hearing.

During the hearing, many mothers testified to the hardships of having to be separated from their newborns after giving birth at St. Francis Hospital because of the facility's lack of a license to care for premature infants that are born 35 weeks or earlier. Now, the hospital will operate a Level Two nursery, meaning it will be able to care for prematurely born infants and their mothers.

Auburn Regional Medical Center and MultiCare Health System have opposed the beds and nursery changes at St. Francis Hospital since the facility made its request to the state. At the March 30 hearing, Auburn Regional Medical Center consultant Bob McGuirk said he was unable to justify the need for the beds and expanded nursery care.

However, the state used its "bed need methodology" and took public comments from the March 30 public hearing into consideration when deciding if the beds and upgraded nursery were necessary.

“The state Department of Health has conducted a comprehensive analysis and concluded that there is a community need for additional beds and expanded nursery care at St. Francis,” Bersante said. “We are eager to put these expansions into place and provide the level of care that our community needs."

The two hospitals have until July 10 to submit an appeal to the state, Robinette said. If either appeals the certificate of need, the state would then take an undetermined amount of time to review the appeal, he said. That time could be better spent providing care to St. Francis Hospital patients, Robinette said.

"There is a community need now for beds and for us to provide care for premature babies," he said. "The quicker we can do so, the better."

MultiCare Health System plans to take the time to review the approval before deciding if it will appeal the certificate of need, spokesman Todd Kelley said. He is not sure how long this process may last.

If no appeals are made, St. Francis Hospital plans to begin construction of a $27 million patient-care wing to house the additional beds in 2008. The project is expected to be completed by 2009. It will be paid for by the Franciscan Health System.

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