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Hospital plans for expansion

Rob Eskridge, Guest columnist

Our hospital is healthy. But a thorough annual physical would show that the physical plant is going to need major surgery within the next few years. I’d like to provide our community with an update on the hospital’s planning.

The original hospital building was built in 1950 on land graciously donated by the Joseph Family. At that time, it was a state-of-the-art facility (though with only 11 patient rooms). The Tahoe Forest Hospital District includes Truckee, the North Lake Tahoe communities and some adjacent areas as well. As the population in these communities has grown, the hospital’s facilities and services have continued to grow.

In 1966, an expansion was constructed for additional patient rooms, a cafeteria, lobby and pharmacy. In 1978, a new emergency room was built, including space for X-ray and other newer diagnostic equipment.

In 1986, a 30-patient skilled nursing facility was added to the south end of the hospital, and in 1990 a new operating room was built and the clinical laboratory was expanded.

During the 1990s, the obstetrics unit and emergency room were modernized, and the dining room and storage areas were enlarged.

Then in 1995, the California Legislature passed a new law requiring all hospitals in the state to meet stricter new seismic regulations; but the original 1950 core of our hospital building cannot be retrofitted to qualify for the new stiffer regulations.

I presume that legislators wanted to ensure that when an earthquake hits, the one building in town to remain standing will always be the hospital. So yet another addition is required.

There are also other problems which will trigger construction of a new facility. If you’ve been a patient at Tahoe Forest, you know that our patient rooms are a little tight for families to participate in a patient’s care and rehabilitation, or to accommodate modern wiring, medical equipment and services which are best provided directly in a patient’s room.

Even with more surgical procedures being handled on an out-patient “day surgery” basis, patients who do stay in the hospital tend to have more serious illnesses, require more intense treatment and equipment support than in the old days.

Most receive more coordinated care in a shorter time which cannot be delivered optimally in the current setting.

We’ll upgrade and retrofit what we can, but it is time for a new addition to the hospital. And you have probably seen the mobile MRI trailer that comes several days each week. Many district residents benefit from this state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, but it should have a more permanent location next to the hospital, so that patients don’t have to be transported across the parking lot covered with a tarp during the winter.

The hospital’s administrative team, physicians on the medical staff and my fellow board members and I have developed a set of goals for the new construction which include:

— Building a new in-patient unit for 25 medical surgical in-patient beds and 6 intensive care beds which will meet the State’s seismic requirements and provide easy access to all other hospital services which patients need most frequently during their stay.

— Creating an environment in the new addition and upgrading older areas of the hospital to promote a healing environment, provide spaces which allow privacy for patients and their families, and facilitate family involvement with the patient’s recovery. (The hospital Auxiliary has already raised funds for a solarium which will be incorporated into the new construction.)

— Positioning the new addition on the site to minimize the cost of future expansion, as well as developing methods to accommodate peak admissions during the busy winter and summer tourist months

— Making it easier to park at the hospital, near the emergency, out-patient, in-patient or other services which District residents will be accessing.

— Blending in well with the community and the Gateway neighborhood.

It is our hope that some of the funding for this addition will come from fundraising efforts which will be led by the Tahoe Forest Hospital Foundation volunteers. We also plan to work in cooperation with the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation. Each of us needs the hospital from time to time, and each of us that are able, locals and tourists alike, will eventually benefit from a gift to help upgrade the hospital’s capabilities. The other portion of the funding will come from the hospital’s operating revenues, though we have been very careful as a board not to let new construction trigger increases in patient charges and not to use funding from the pending revenue bond specifically for this major project.

You know that a hospital is more than its building. We are fortunate in our area to have many doctors who are board certified, with skills in the latest laproscopic, less invasive procedures and other treatments which are being practiced at the country’s major medical centers. Our diagnostic and treatment equipment is routinely upgraded, and the hospital’s nurses and medical technicians are absolutely committed to a level of patient care which reflects both our small-town community closeness as well as skills which we would expect to find in larger city hospitals. The new facility will help them provide the high level of care for which they have been trained.

If residents of the Hospital District would like to provide input to these goals or to our facility planning process, a public hearing will be held during our next regular board meeting on Tuesday, April 27th A time for public input will be offered at 7:00 PM in the meeting room adjacent to the hospital’s cafeteria. Your comments can also be directed in writing to me or to your other elected board members (Father Leonard Shaheen, Dr. Howard Boone, MaryLou Sullivan and Lee Auckenthaler) at the hospital’s address: 10121 Pine Avenue, Truckee, CA 96161.

We promise to keep the community posted as these plans progress, and we ask for your input and support in keeping our hospital up to date for our growing community.


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