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THE GROWTH BEGINS
Northwest began to feel the need to build almost as soon as the hospital opened. Just a year later, it would be planning a medical office building.
The board saw early on that office buildings would provide needed specialists to the nearby community. They leased the land to a third party who built the building and rented it to the physicians.
In 1965, then, the Northwest Professional Center at the south end of the property opened. Designed by Lawrence and Hazen, the 12,000-square-foot building was actually a series of separate one-story buildings brought together under a common roof and featuring centralized air conditioning.
The Munger Building Company, owned by former board member Dick Munger and his wife, Patricia, entered into a lease-build agreement with the hospital, handling all rental agreements and tenant services for the Northwest Professional Center. The lease was for 30 years, at which time the property would revert back to the hospital. In the meantime, the Mungers agreed to obtain the hospital's permission before assigning the lease to anyone else.
In 1968, Safeco Life Insurance Company took over the lease, and leased another 120,000 square feet on the hospital campus. The Careage Corporation eventually took over Safeco's leases and built the three-story Medical Arts Building in 1974.
The relationship with Careage would become complicated in the late 1970s, when Northwest, needing still more office space for physicians, began planning the Medical Office Building.
Careage's lease gave them the right of first refusal to build any additional office buildings on campus. The board considered seven alternatives ranging from letting Careage exercise its option to building the office complex itself. Each proposal had its drawbacks —legal or financial — but the board finally settled on a joint venture with physicians.
Subsequently, Careage intervened in the hospital's Environmental Impact Statement request for the tower in November 1978. One of the solutions the board thought about was to buy the Medical Arts Building from Careage. Careage, however, priced the building a million dollars higher than the hospital thought it was worth.
The board finally decided to invite a third party in to buy the Medical Arts Building from Careage. In 1979, when Careage sold the building to Jim Musser and Stan Boreson, Northwest negotiated the right-of-first-refusal clause out of the lease, and the way was clear to build the third office building on campus. The Medical Office Building, connected to the tower by a second-story skybridge, was completed in 1984. The Medical Arts Building is today owned by the Travelers Insurance Company. It's the only building on campus the hospital does not own.
The board was laying the foundations for more than medical offices in 1965, however, for another new building was beginning to take shape that year. It was the hospital's D-wing on the eastern edge of the property, originally planned not as an acute-care nursing unit, but as an intermediate-care facility. "Comprehensive care" (or, sometimes, "progressive care") was the latest fashion in the mid-1960s. Hospitals began to try to provide care not only for acute illness, but also for chronic illness involving long-term or permanent hospitalization and for recovering or chronically ill patients needing stays of intermediate length who did not require such intensive nursing as acute patients.
Northwest's comprehensive care unit was never put to its intended purpose. About a year before the building was ready to open, Medicare decreed that it would no longer pay for "intermediate care."
Northwest needed new medical facilities anyway, and so the building, never meant to be a part of the hospital proper, was put to use as a medical nursing wing, adding 99 beds to the hospital. Rooms were retrofitted with the appro-priate gases, and a ramp was built to connect the building to the original hospital. (The ramp rises 5 feet in its 160 feet length,
quite a steep climb for anyone pushing a gurney or wheelchair!)
When it opened in 1967, the building included the intensive and coronary care units with four beds each, rehabilitation, minimal long-term convalescent care, and medical and surgical acute care. Physical, hydro-, and occupational therapy units occupied the building, as did social services. The new wing had its own dining room, which would "also serve the ambulatory patient."
The change in the building's use did not mean that Northwest had given up on "progressive care." On the contrary, the new wing would allow the hospital to offer a broad range of services, from the acute ICU and CCU units to physical rehabilitation. L. Chapin Henry, chairman of the board, told a local paper, "The addition allows us to enter the field of progressive care. Patients will be able to have the specific care necessary — from intensive to general acute to minimal, depending on their needs.
"The emphasis will be on rehabilitation of patients. In addition, a Utilization Committee ... will review and recommend the length of stay for individuals. This will guard against both prolonged hospital stays and early releases of patients."
By the summer of 1968, construction had begun on the third phase of "progressive care," convalescence. A $1,000,000, 182-bed convalescent center to the west of the original building would "make Northwest the first hospital in this area to offer a nearly complete range of progressive patient care," said Kloshe Kumtuks. 'This concept amounts to the tailoring of hospital services to meet patient needs."
The convalescent center, designed and built by the Hillhaven Company as a joint venture with Careage Corporation and Safeco, would house a residential language rehabilitation program — the first of its kind on the West Coast and the third in the country; 24 beds for post-acute stroke patients or others who needed comprehensive rehabilitation help; a 30-bed restorative care unit where post-acute medical and surgical patients would receive specialized nursing, physical and occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, psychological and social services; a minimal or "self-care" unit (Moshe Kumtuks, in its Summer 1968, issue, said that eight of these 20 beds would be private suites "geared to the needs of the corporation executives during their periodic physical examinations"); physical and occupational therapy rooms; a swimming pool, sauna, and a Hubbard tank, used for aquatic physical exercises. A 96-bed nursing home would occupy about half the building.
The Progressive Care Center (PCC), as it came to be known, opened in May 1969. Northwest leased it from Hillhaven/Careage/Safeco under a management contract. However, whatever Northwest knew about running a hospital apparently did not apply to nursing homes: the hospital was sustaining a $15,000-a-month loss. In 1974, Northwest turned management of the PCC over to Villa Care Center, Inc. Ultimately, Villa Care couldn't make a go of it, either. Patient care and building maintenance were deteriorating, and families of patients there would, naturally, complain to Northwest Hospital. The board agreed to buy out the remainder of Hillhaven's management contract, establish it as a separate entity with its own board of directors selected from the hospital's board, and hired Bill Schneider to turn it around. He did.
The PCC was finally a financial success, but Northwest decided to get out of the nursing home business in the late-1980s. The hospital needed the space for services. Northwest bought the building from Careage and, in 1988, relocated the last nursing-home patient. The completely renovated building now is home to rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility, and Hospice Northwest.
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