Sonoma Valley Hospital debuts new wing
Scales, wheelchairs, portable patient monitors and rolling metal carts and gurneys piled high with medical equipment and supplies were just some of the last-minute items to find a home at Sonoma Valley Hospital's new emergency department Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, nurses, doctors and medical staff worked throughout the morning to put everything in its place, as the first patients were brought into the new $43.8 million hospital wing, including a new second-floor surgical center.
Capt. Joe Morrison of the Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue Authority, tagging along for the first ambulance drop-off, toured the new emergency department with other firefighters to get better acquainted with the facility.
"I just came in to look," he said. "It's beautiful. It's nice. We've been waiting for it for a while."
Outside, near the new entrance to the emergency department and hospital's main lobby, top hospital brass removed a tarp from the new ER sign
The atmosphere of excitement and pride among hospital staff Tuesday reflected the fruit of several years of planning and cooperation that involved hospital officials, community leaders and Sonoma Valley residents and philanthropists.
About 70 percent of the project's cost was paid for through bonds approved by voters in 2008.
The celebratory opening day stood in stark contrast to the acrimony that plagued a divided community eight years ago. At that time, hospital officials were pushing a plan to build a $148 million, 70-bed hospital on 16 acres of farmland that would have to be taken by eminent domain.
That plan was followed by another proposal that would have built a smaller, less expensive hospital on the southern end of the city's limits. The proposal drew fire from Sonoma Valley environmentalists who were opposed to expanding the city's urban growth boundary.
In the end, after considering a number of alternatives, hospital leaders and the local community came together on a plan that would expand the existing 83-bed facility and gradually modernize the rest of the hospital. For some, Tuesday's launch of the new wing represented a new era for Sonoma Valley.
"It's a healing hospital now," said hospital CEO Kelly Mather. "We've healed and now we're going to inspire healing."
At 6,586 square feet, the new ER is three times as big as the old department. The 5,657-square-foot surgery center is 20 percent bigger than the old operating department.
The ER has seven private treatment rooms and one area with two beds for severely ill patients. The department has a large waiting area, a triage room, consultation room and play area for kids.
From the larger nurse's station, medical staff have a clear line of sight to every patient room. The department is also equipped with tele-medicine capabilities that allow local ER physicians to consult with medical specialists in the Bay Area.
Dr. Robert Cohen, the hospital's chief medical officer, said more rooms means there will be less waiting time for patients. Hospital officials estimate that 90 percent of ER patients will be admitted to care within 10 minutes.
"The idea is to get to patients promptly so they don't wait," Cohen said, adding that the new ER rivals other local departments in design of patient flow and equipment.
"I think the public got a bargain," he said as he surveyed the new department. "I remember when this was a back-of-the-envelope design."