Hospital tax plan goes under city magnifying glass

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Bartlett Regional Hospital needs $40 million for structural additions to the hospital, an expansion of services, and the relocation and consolidation of departments.

The plan, called Project 2005, calls for the city to kick in half the project's funding via revenues from Juneau's temporary 1 percent sales tax -- a proposal the Juneau Assembly is considering at its work session tonight.

Proceeds from the tax, approved by voters, have so far paid for the new police station and harbor, park and trail projects.

Project 2005 is driven by medical developments and the concern for patient comfort and safety, said Robert Valliant, administrator of the city-owned hospital.

``An example is the new Obstetrics Department, a new concept in improved service,'' Valliant said.

The current system requires e pregnant woman to be admitted to what is probably a semi-private room -- without shower or bath -- and then to a birthing room. The baby then goes to a nursery and the mother back to a semi-private room.

``In the new department, everything -- labor, delivery, recovery and post-partum -- happens in one room, which is private and large enough to accommodate a spouse or significant other,'' Valliant said.

The aging of Southeast's population also figures in the expansion. Bartlett will add four new intensive care unit beds to the existing four. The revamped hospital is also introducing a kidney-dialysis unit to Southeast patients -- a service that patients now have to spend a lot of time Outside for.

The number of beds in the Mental Health Unit will double, from six to 12. The unit provides all the services a patient might find -- except for electroshock treatment -- at a major mental health care center, Valliant said. The expansion plan was brought about when the Mount Edgecumbe hospital in Sitka shut down its own mental health facility, he said.

Other changes will offer more privacy to patients being admitted, and relocate several departments for more efficient patient service and communication among medical staff.

In addition, Bartlett's bathroom-less semi-private rooms will be history. Twenty of the hospital's 55 rooms are now semi-private. The total number of rooms will rise to 67, all of which will be private, Valliant said.

And there will be a ``healing garden,'' he said, where patients may go for emotional healing, another emerging concept in hospital care.

Assembly Finance Committee Chairman Dwight Perkins said he supports getting the 1 percent tax onto the October ballot for renewal. He also supports dedicating the measure's revenues to Bartlett's Project 2005.

``If Bartlett were a private business, it would be one of the larger employers of our community,'' he said. ``And with this project, a lot of local, well-paid construction workers will be on the payroll.''

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