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THERE WERE SUCCESSES, Too
This is not to say that the hospital stood still in the early '70s. There were also successes.
Surgery doubled in size with the addition of three new operating rooms built of reinforced concrete and steel over the hospital loading dock. The recovery room was enlarged to hold 13 patients, and new space was added for a frozen-tissue-section lab and private offices for the anesthesiologist, surgical supervisor, and surgical secretary.
The hospital shielded two of the original operatories with lead and installed new Picker 500 milliampere, 150 kilovolt radio-logic equipment. One operating room was specially equipped for urologic procedures.
In 1973, the board's new concept committee proposed opening a "Surgicenter," or day surgery unit. The committee wanted to try out this new idea by using the sixth operating room and the west end of the Surgery East wing on Thursdays and Fridays, and estimated patients would save from 30 to 40 percent of normal costs. Apparently it was successful, because in 1985, a permanent day surgery unit opened.
Northwest also opened a 21-bed pediatrics unit in the early 1970s. This was truly a kid's place, with cartoon characters painted on the walls, and nurses in bright pastels or printed smocks instead of stark white. Some patients could ride to X-ray or other examinations in a little red wagon. The staff would be devoted to pediatrics and would not rotate to others areas of the hospital, allowing more consistent care — and the predictability children need. Mom could room-in with her child if conditions warranted, too.
The obstetrics and maternity nursing wings were on their way to becoming the Childbirth Center. Births had tripled between 1966 and 1969, occasioning a 1,300-square-foot addition to the nursery area. Dad was still a novelty in the delivery room; most fathers awaited the birth of their children in a comfortable waiting room. In the 70s, the hospital was one of the first in the area to add an alternate birthing room.
In 1970 the Hospital Auxiliary also donated funds for a fetal monitoring system, making Northwest the first community hospital in the area to have this sophisticated device that permits physicians to monitor the baby's heartbeat before and during birth. Fetal monitoring, commonplace today, had been in clinical use for only three years when Northwest Hospital began its use in 1970.
Northwest was keeping pace with technology in other areas as well. A new computer system managed personnel and payroll.
Northwest's were the first hospital nurses in Seattle to use battery-operated digital-read-out thermometers, and saved 1,000 hours a month doing so.
Nuclear medicine arrived in 1971 with the installation of a $70,000 Pho/Gamma Scintillation Camera which allowed physicians to "look into" the patient's body to identify and locate tumors, blood clots, or abnormal gland functioning in the brain, chest, or abdomen. It was, said Kloshe Kumtuks, "one of the most advanced techniques currently available for modern health care."
The hospital's Stroke Center made it the logical choice to perform clinical trials of the Doppler Flowmeter, an ultrasound device used to measure the velocity of blood flow through the arteries. Physi-cians hoped that the Doppler Flowmeter would enable them to detect carotid obstructions, the cause of one out of four strokes. The four- to six-month study evaluating the Doppler's usefulness in detecting carotid disease and predicting strokes was funded by a grant from the Washington State Heart Association to Edwin C. Brockenbrough, M.D., of the University of Washington School of Medicine and the surgical staff of Harborview and now on Northwest's medical staff as well. Dr. Brockenbrough, a trustee of the hospital, is a recognized expert in the diagnosis and treatment of carotid artery disease.
The emergency department patient load had doubled between 1968 and 1973 (in 1972, 11,200 people came to Northwest for emergency services), severely taxing that department's facilities. Emergency was full not only because there were more people in the North End, but also because more of them used the emergency department as a substitute for the "preferred regular care by a private physician," as Kloshe Kumtuks so carefully put it. The family physician was expected to provide routine and preventive care; the hospital would take care of immediate health problems.
Responding to this change in public perception (if not approving of it), in 1973 the hospital completed a $400,000, 2,000-square-foot expansion of the emergency department. There were now two large treatment rooms, two examination rooms, a nurses' station, waiting area, and a new ambulance entrance.
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