Grants Pass hospital will open with comfortable atmosphere

GRANTS PASS - If you feel like you've walked into a shopping mall when you visit the new hospital, don't be surprised.

That comfortable, open, airy atmosphere is just what the designers set out to create when they started sketching Three Rivers Community Hospital.

The 98-bed hospital, which opens June 2, reflects Asante Health System's determination to create a "healing environment," said Marilyn Watkins, a nurse who will manage patient care in the new building. She said architects created the hospital around an open floor plan with large public spaces when community members told them that they wanted a hospital that didn't feel like a rat maze.

— Tours
Three Rivers Community Hospital will offer tours to the public from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday during an open house.

To reach the hospital from Medford, take Interstate 5 north to Grants Pass. Take the Highway 199 exit. Follow Highway 199 (also known as the Grants Pass Parkway) through town until you come to the intersection with the Rogue River and Williams highways. Turn left onto Williams Highway (Highway 238), then right onto Union Avenue, then left on Ramsay. The hospital is at 500 Ramsay Avenue.

For more information, phone 541-955-5419 or 541-472-7000. "Most people don't want to come to a hospital," Watkins said. "It's a crisis in their lives. This mall concept will make them feel comfortable when they come."

Physicians have long known that patients respond to treatment best in a comfortable, low-stress environment. But many modern hospitals, built over time in a series of expansions, sometimes fail to provide a healing environment. Unfriendly corridors stretch on forever; viewless rooms feel dreary; patients and staff alike struggle with the limitations of the building and long for the comforts of home.

Building a new hospital from scratch gave the designers a real advantage, said Paul Janke, who oversees the hospital as senior vice president for Asante.

"When you're saddled with an existing building," he said, "you don't have that total design control."

The $52-million project reflects a year of discussions with community members, physicians, nurses and technicians about what they wanted to see in the new building, which replaces two older hospitals which Asante maintained on separate campuses. The Dimmick campus will revert back to Josephine County for county services. The Asante-owned Washington campus will be remodeled to house other services.

Watkins said the new hospital will encourage emotional, spiritual and physical healing because the building has been designed to allow staff to work quietly and efficiently, which will help reduce patient stress.

Designers considered color scheme and decorating materials in creating a soothing environment. Concrete floors on the ground level have been stained tones of blue and green, while walls carry warm earth tones.

"People don't feel good if the colors are washed out or stark white," said Wendy Garrison, a Seattle interior designer who helped create the look and feel inside the building. "You come in and these colors embrace you."

There's more than earth tones to help patients feel better. The new building incorporates many technologies that have developed over the past two decades. In the operating room, for example, ceiling-mounted hydraulic booms will carry all the equipment, tools and supplies doctors use during surgery, reducing the clutter around the patient.

The booms also carry the electrical connections for video equipment that's become an increasingly important component of many surgical procedures over the past 15 years. Medical gases such as oxygen will be delivered from hoses suspended from the ceiling.

Those arrangements will allow surgeons "to circulate around the patient and get to all the parts without falling over equipment," said Diana Sheldon, director of patient care services.

New medical technology has been brought into the building, too. X-rays, for example, will be processed digitally and stored electronically rather than using the traditional film system. Identical patient-monitoring equipment has been installed in all patient care areas to help staff avoid learning too many different procedures.

"Every gadget is as standardized as we can get it," Sheldon said.

Patient rooms have been designed to feel more like a home bedroom than a hospital room. Eighty-six of the hospital's 98 beds are in private rooms, and the majority of those have been located on the third floor, away from the hospital's noisier public spaces. Patient rooms feature padded window seats big enough to accommodate a family member who wants to sleep over, and wood cabinets cover lines for medical supplies such as oxygen and the connections for monitoring equipment.

"The cabinets hide all those foreign substances that make people feel uncomfortable," said Watkins, the patient care supervisor. "You will not see medical equipment (in patient rooms) unless there's a need to see medical equipment."

Building designers acknowledged the healing power of sunlight for patients, visitors and staff. Patient rooms have large windows, and public spaces are flooded with sunlight. Swathes of glass on the second and third floor provide views of the mountains that surround Grants Pass, and skylights have been built over nurse's stations to carry natural light into the work areas.

The footprint of the building on the 44-acre site was configured so that the patient care areas can be doubled without moving or restructuring the physical plant, which provides heating and cooling to the building.

"We believe we've got a 50-year-plus development site here," Janke said.

Janke said many of the new building's innovations can be seen in bits and pieces at other hospitals, "but to bring them all together in one hospital is unusual."

"When you start with a blank piece of land, you've got the luxury to design close to perfection."

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492, or e-mail