On Monday, July 10, Jason Zacharia, president of Kindred Rehabilitation, took the podium in turn with other healthcare leaders inside a white welcome tent. It was a ground-breaking ceremony for a $25 million investment in Tacoma's soon-to-be rehabilitation hospital now ready for construction on the same plot where the old Afifi Shriners building once stood at 815 S. Vassault St.
According to Zacharia, this ground was soon going to support the first free-standing rehabilitation hospital west of the Cascades, in both Washington and Oregon, and it would definitely be the first freestanding rehab hospital in the Seattle-to-Tacoma marketplace.
The new facility, which hopes to welcome its first patient in the spring of 2018, will have 60 beds with approximately 130 staff members. In addition to doctors, therapists and nursing staff, it will also employ pharmacists, case managers, social workers and dieticians.
In terms of facility design, Zacharia said the new hospital will have a dedicated brain injury unit, a dedicated stroke unit and a very large rehabilitation gym with state of the art technology. He said that outside there will be a courtyard dedicated to the sort of lifestyle choices that are preferred by local citizens and it will be designed to help patients move about so they can get better faster and return home.
Plans for the hospital evolved thanks to great minds at CHI Franciscan inviting experts from Kindred to join in on the planning. That's what created the joint venture that has grown until this groundbreaking experience became possible.
"Pierce County has been at a very critical tipping point for rehab services for a very long period of time," said Ketul J. Patel, chief executive officer at CHI Franciscan Health. "We have a very prominent trauma program in the region and with that program, which usually lends a tremendous amount of need for rehab patients for the entire region – even though we've had those level of services at St. Joe's – this is an opportunity for us to really expand our footprint into a freestanding entity here that we are going to see."
According to CHI Franciscan Health, one reality that has fueled more incentive for building the new hospital is that baby boomers around the South Sound are aging and the number of patients seeking rehabilitation services is expected to increase.
"We are going to see the complex patients that we have not been able to see, who have been going to Seattle and going to other parts of the country," Patel said.
Later, outside that white welcome tent, the sun illuminated all the smiling faces as the attending Sisters of St. Francis and head officials from Franciscan and Kindred took turns using shovels with golden blades to move earth symbolically.
Each lecturer from earlier had celebrated the concept of a new hospital that will offer specialized treatment for neurological conditions such as stroke and brain injury as well as physical trauma, like spinal cord injuries and amputations.
Anne McBride, president at Regional Hospital for Respiratory and Complex Care, had delivered the welcoming message and thanked all the leaders in this new project, including Aldrich + Associates, the general contractor who, McBride said, has worked with Franciscan before. She also said ESa, out of Nashville, is the architect working on this project and said hello to Timothy Duke, construction contract administrator for ESa. McBride also expressed her excitement about how the new hospital will provide a better quality of care to patients.
Toward the beginning of the ceremony, Rose Shandrow, division director at Mission & Spiritual care, had provided pertinent meditative thoughts. "This is holy ground," she said. "It's holy ground because people who will eventually be working in this new field of healing will be angels of hope to people who will be in despair."
While Patel did not name each of the attending nuns during his speech and only mentioned Sister Rose by name, he did thank all of the attending Sisters of St. Francis for having a big hand in developing the reality of this new rehabilitation hospital. Patel said the sisters have helped CHI Franciscan Health enter into new markets, new programs and new services throughout Puget Sound.
Patel also spoke about celebrating this new legacy that they were creating by building the hospital as it will extend services for serving the generations to come. Patel also thanked Roy Brooks, chairman of the Franciscan board, for taking time at every single event to recognize the great work that the leadership team and staff do.
Patel also thanked his partners at Kindred Healthcare for being the right partner for believing in the CHI mission. "Several years ago we (at Franciscan) talked about the rehab journey and where we wanted to go and we truly were looking for a partner that would help us extend our footprint but also was really built on high quality and expectations for high quality," he said. "We reached out to Kindred and really found the right partner."
Finally, CHI - Franciscan Medical Group's Chair of the Joint Venture Board of Managers Anthony Dorsch walked up to the podium. He said the board and folks who supported this vision had been preparing for this event for well over a year and he thanked many more contributors to the joint venture. He expressed gratitude for the partnerships with the city of Tacoma, with Pierce County and with the state of Washington through the certificate of need application process.
Looking forward, Dorsch said that most important job now was for leadership to remain focused on creating an operational design that will get the new hospital to the level of quality and patient safety that is expected of Kindred and Franciscan.