Central Oregon

St. Charles plans new hospital in Prineville

Says it would be cheaper than renovating PMH

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Prineville soon will get a brand-new hospital to replace its 1950s-era Pioneer Memorial Hospital, if the hospital board, community members and the St. Charles Health System board approve plans in the next few weeks.

PMH is a membership corporation, to which community members pay to belong, and both they and the hospital board will be briefed on the plans when they hold their annual meeting on Monday, April 8 at 7 p.m. at the Crook County High School auditorium.

They are expected to review three proposals: to terminate the PMH lease (once the new hospital is built), to approve selling the current assets to help fund the $30 million project, and to create a scholarship fund for the Crook County community.

Then, the St. Charles Board of Directors is expected to make a decision on proceeding with the project during an April 18-19 meeting., reviewing the chosen design firm and site location for the new hospital.

"It's a 1950 hospital – we all love it, but how many of us are still driving a 1950 car?" asked Bob Gomes, CEO of St. Charles's Redmond and Prineville hospitals.

"It doesn't meet what our patients expect from us today," Gomes said Thursday. "We don't have private rooms, a good flow – we don't even have bathrooms in all of our rooms."

"We know we need to do something," he said. "For us to keep maintaining this facility, it's going to get real expensive, real quick." For example, Gomes said, "We need to comply with fire marshal rules and laws." And then there's the asbestos in the current facility, which would complicate (and make more costly) an in-place upgrade. The price tag for a remodel was estimated at $49 million, a lot more than a new, modern facility.

Seven firms submitted design proposals by last Friday's deadline, and a review committee is expected to narrow that to two finalists by the end of next week, then one for the St. Charles board to review, said Kayley Mendenhall, St. Charles communications coordinator.

The goal is to have a new hospital in place by early 2015.

Officials say it will be designed more like the "pod" design of new schools – doctors and nurses able to look at each room from a central location, and patients can see them, too -- than the old hallways of even the current Bend facility.

In addition, Gomes noted that the current hospital location "really land-locks us," in terms of future expansion needs. Current discussions for a new hospital location include the IronHorse subdivision and the former Ochoco Lumber site.

As for a decision on what to do with the current site, Gomes said "that's down the road," as the parcel is owned by the PMH board. If it agrees to a sale, an appraisal would be done and it would be put on the market.

"Hopefully it can become a great community asset," he said. "There are some newer parts, 10 to 15 years old that would work well."

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