Aging SE hospitals eye upgrades

KETCHIKAN — A number of aging hospitals in Southeast Alaska are moving to make expensive upgrades or even replace the facilities.

“At some point, you just can’t remodel enough to keep up with what the patients need. That’s what we’re seeing in Southeast Alaska,” said Karen Perdue, CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.

A major overhaul is planned at Ketchikan Medical Center. Local voters recently approved a ballot measure to take on $43 million in bonds for the first phase of the renovation.

Additional improvements estimated to cost $14 million are planned for the hospital, which retains its 1960s appearance, KRBD reported.

Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau was rebuilt in the 1960s and expanded in the 1980s. Hospital spokesman Jim Strader said limitations there have more to do with services that lack sufficient demand, such as cardiology, than with facilities that need upgrades.

“The hospital is extremely well-equipped,” Strader said. “We have a brand new state-of-the-art critical care unit ... The building is fairly new. It’s modern. It’s very well-equipped.”

A hospital in Wrangell was built in 1968. Plans for a new hospital were put on hold during a turbulent leadership battle in the town. The hospital and its board, however, are ready to start again.

Additions have been made to the hospital since it was built, but an engineer determined remodeling and expanding it would cost more than construction of a new facility.

The Ketchikan hospital is owned by the city. It is operated by PeaceHealth, a Catholic nonprofit organization that also manages facilities in Oregon and Washington.

The city of Ketchikan already has about $15 million from the state for its upgrade project. The first and most expensive phase would add about 72,000 square feet to the hospital and PeaceHealth-operated clinics.

There have been some renovations to the hospital since the 1960s, such as electrical upgrades so fuses don’t blow during surgeries. The basic structure, however, is the same.

The redesign also includes plans for higher ceilings, an expanded emergency room and lab and relocation of the main entrance.

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