Sutter embarks on $173 million expansion of Santa Rosa hospital

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Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital last week broke ground on a $173 million hospital expansion and renovation intended to relieve crowding in a hospital that has seen rapid growth in the number of patients it treats since it opened only five years ago.

The expansion, scheduled to be completed by September 2022, will greatly increase the number of beds and reduce the reliance on neighboring medical centers, said Mike Purvis, the hospital’s CEO.

“Right now because of capacity, we often need to transfer patients to other hospitals,” he said. “This will mean less disruption and more continuity in terms of care.”

Sutter Health will invest $158 million to cover the expansion cost. Another $15 million is expected to be raised through a five-year capital campaign.

Purvis said since the hospital opened in 2014, the number of visits to the emergency department has increased 40%. The hospital now gets about 37,000 annual visits to the emergency department and admits nearly 7,000 patients a year overall.

“Having additional beds will allow us to offer a bed to everyone in emergency or medical and surgical services,” Purvis said, noting the project wlll mean the hospital will need to add employees.

The existing 84-bed, 183,817-square-foot hospital, which cost $284 million to build, will continue to operate during construction. Work on the new three-story, 67,000-square-foot tower on the east side of the hospital is expected to begin Monday.

The expansion will include 40 medical, surgical beds (20 on each of the top two floors), two new operating rooms, 20 intensive care unit beds and 11 post-anesthesia care beds.

The expansion also will allow Sutter to renovate 10,713 square feet of space in the existing hospital. In doing so, Sutter plans to add nine emergency department bays, which will give the hospital 22 emergency bays. The renovation will allow the hospital to expand dietary, laboratory and blood bank services.

Sutter officials said last week they’re hoping to minimize the level of disruption caused by the two-year construction project.

Most of the disruption will occur during the foundation and steel structure work, the first two construction phases. But hospital officials said the exterior walls of the new tower will be erected using prefabricated panels, a construction process that has never been used before at a local hospital.

Matthew Boersma, senior project manager for HerreroBoldt, the construction manager/general contractor for the expansion, said the wall panels will be fabricated offsite, even as the steel structure is erected.

On Friday, hospital officials and local politicians gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony at the expansion site. Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore, whose 4th District includes the Sutter campus, recalled the Sutter staff’s efforts to get the hospital reopened after the 2017 North Bay wildfires.

“This isn’t just about a building,” Gore said. “It’s filled with service, commitment and resilience to the top level.”

Julie Petrini, CEO of Sutter Bay Hospitals, said completion of the larger hospital “can’t come soon enough” to meet the needs of the community.

“I realize that we have a full hospital almost each and every day,” she said.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane, whose 3rd District includes the site of the old Sutter hospital on Chanate Road, said last week the hospital was built too small to begin with.

Zane said she and former county health services director Rita Scardacci had run the numbers and quickly realized the planned hospital would not be big enough for the growing community.

At the time, county officials were bracing for thousands more local residents getting health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, which became law around the time the Sutter hospital broke ground in 2010 and was fully implemented by the time the hospital opened in 2014.

“We figured out that instead of 80 beds they really needed 150 beds,” Zane said. “We were very, very adamant that they needed those extra beds.”

Zane said the Affordable Care Act has resulted in 50,000 residents enrolled in either Medi-Cal or an individual plan through the state’s health exchange.

“We knew the hospital was going to fill up right away, and I think it happened within the first weeks,” she said.

Peter Rumble, CEO of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, said the expansion, as with any major construction project, will be a boon to the local economy.

“A project of this size is representative of Sutter’s commitment to Santa Rosa and Sonoma County,” Rumble said.

For Purvis, who has led the Santa Rosa hospital for 10 years, the expansion represents his last big construction project. He’s set to retire early next year after 45 years in the health field.

“For me personally, as a leader, it’s been something very, very special, 10 years of a very long career in health care,” he said. “These have definitely been the very best.”

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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