Monday, August 18, 2008

Kaiser spends $1 billion on hospitals

Kaiser spends $1 billion on hospitals
Monday, August 18, 2008

SOLANO COUNTY – Kaiser Perm-anente will spend more than $1 billion in Solano by 2009, building two new medical centers and another 57-office medical building. The buildings are expected to boost county employment by about 2,000 to 3,000 jobs during the next five years, according to Kaiser officials, who also hope the sites will attract other types of businesses to the area.

“There will be a lot more staff in the area who will be looking for shopping, food, recreation,” said Kaiser spokesman Jim Caroompas. “We hope it will have an economic benefit to the county as whole.”

Though the total number of Solano County jobs has grown by about 19 percent between June 1997 and June 2008, employment has slowly declined in the last two years. The California Employment Development Department reported an average 200,900 jobs in 2006, which slipped to a low of 197,700 this March, though it has made gains in recent months, hitting 199,500 in June.

“The hospital will be a great amenity for the people who live in the area not only because so many of them are members, but it adds a huge number of high-salary jobs to the city,” said Mike Palombo, economic development manager for the city of Vacaville.

Health care positions are projected to be among the fastest-growing industries in the next decade.

The 340,000-square-foot, four-story Vacaville Medical Center on Vaca Valley Parkway is expected to open its doors in April next year. It will have 150 beds, all in private rooms, as well as a 36-bay emergency room, pharmacy and 2,300-vehicle parking lot.

The center will have the city’s first maternity ward and neighbor an expanded, 57-office medical building, which will bring new specialty services to the city. Other services include ambulatory surgery, cardiology, radiology, oncology, orthopedics, podiatry, urology, chemotherapy, nephrology and head and neck surgery.

Vacaville is the second testing ground for Kaiser’s new “template hospital” plan, which will allow the organization to cut off about 18 months in the licensing and design-approval process for future facilities.

“Vacaville is the second hospital being built based on a model developed by Kaiser that all hospitals will use from now on,” Mr. Caroompas said. “The idea was devised about five years ago,

and basically it created a basic construction design. Each new hospital will be basically the same but enough wiggle room to allow them to tweak it to have its own individuality.”

The first Kaiser facility to use the model opened in Antioch in November. The models include a number of green features, including the widespread use of large windows with UV-filtering coating to cut down on electric lighting as well as recycled rubber flooring and parking lot asphalt.

The hospital is also made to be family friendly, with large private rooms and pull-out beds equipped with flat screen televisions. “We really wanted to promote a sense of comfort and home. We no longer have visiting hours, but patients are open to family 24 hours,” Mr. Caroompas said.

In Vallejo, the current Kaiser facility built in 1971 will be demolished and replaced with a 460,000-square-foot, 248-bed hospital, which will open next fall. The building on Serano Drive will include an emergency room, 24-bed intensive care unit and radiology department. The site will also include a rehabilitation department with two gyms.

Besides the Vallejo hospital, Kaiser currently has a smaller medical office in Vacaville, one in Fairfield and an office in Napa.