Valdez health authority seeks new hospital, sets meeting

Operators of Valdez Community Hospital have proposed building a new facility, and a public meeting is scheduled this month as part of a required state review process.

The Valdez Regional Health Authority has proposed construction of a new facility to replace its current property, located in part of the former state-owned Harborview facility, said chief executive Jim Culley.

That building, built in 1967, was closed and boarded up in 1997, he said.

The state Department of Health and Social Services, which regulates major health care facility construction, has scheduled a public meeting for 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 10 at the City Council Chambers in Valdez.

The health authority in Valdez has proposed building a $24.7 million, 68,500-square-foot building, Culley said. That cost includes design and bonding requirements, Culley noted.

"If everything went well, we would break ground in late summer 2002," he said.

Using that timeline the project could be finished by summer 2004, he said.

Currently, the Valdez Community Hospital occupies 25,000 square feet of the former 80,000-square-foot mental health facility.

A new facility would provide needed updates to Valdez area health care providers, Culley said.

"Most hospitals have ongoing programs of modernization," he said.

The health authority decided to pursue construction when estimates for renovating the existing building climbed close to new construction costs, he said.

The new, one-story facility would be larger because it would include services not currently offered at the hospital, he said. The replacement hospital could include a laundry and dietary facilities, he noted. Meals are now prepared at Providence Alaska Medical Center and flown to Valdez, he said. Other proposed services include physical therapy and mental health services.

Proposed changes include approval for 11 acute care beds and 10 long-term care beds, he said. Currently, Valdez Community Hospital is certified for 15 acute care beds, which are also used for non-acute care patients.

The Valdez Regional Health Authority aims to create a health care campus on 15 to 18 acres near the senior center, according to Culley. The plan includes building the new facility on city-owned land and developing the health care campus on land that includes the current Harborview facility. State officials have said the health authority could acquire the land but have not allotted money for demolition of the old building, he said.

"We’re trying to negotiate with the state on that," he said.

If the health authority did pay for demolition, the total project would cost $26.5 million, he said.

The Valdez Regional Health Authority, which operates the hospital and Valdez Counseling Center, submitted a certificate of need application June 16, he said.

On Oct. 9 state health department officials notified Culley that the application was complete, kicking off the next step.

"Once they declare the certificate application complete, the department has 90 days to complete a review of the application," Culley said. "Then they submit an analysis and recommendation to the commissioner."

The review is to be finished Jan. 8. Reviews study the community health care needs of the area that might be served by a new hospital, said David Pierce, certificate of need coordinator for the state Department of Health and Social Services. The process also will analyze the estimated number of bed days at the hospital and gauge whether the proposed facility is the appropriate size, he said.

The state health department will look at the financial feasibility and staffing needs of the project, he noted.

"The thing we will be looking for is ’does it seem reasonable that this will be a successful endeavor?’ " he said.

11/04/2001 - 8:00pm