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New Hospital Brings Hope to Region

By Stephanie Regalado Photos by Chad Hutson

Nearly one year afterbreaking ground, the Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital located in Post Falls, Idaho, the new facility is ready to open its doors to patients and begin to fill a medical gap in the Inland Northwest. Although finishing a project of this magnitude in such a compacted time frame is something to be proud of, it hasn't gone fast enough for those closely involved with the project. "The biggest challenge has been getting the project done so we could really start serving the patients," said Chad Hutson, Director of Marketing and Business Development for the hospital. Patients with long-term acute needs have waited a very long time for such a facility. In the history of our region, particular medically fragile patients haven't necessarily been offered the extremely tailored, highly intensive treatment required to help them achieve a higher level of wellness. Those who have needed such care were forced to travel hundreds of miles to long-term acute care facilities located in Seattle or Denver, or they had been kept in local acute care hospitals such as Kootenai Medical Center, Deaconess or Sacred Heart Hospital. Many were transferred to nursing homes. Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital is a Long Term Acute Care Hospital. They provide specialized medical, nursing and rehabilitation services for patients who need more advanced care for their recovery process but no longer require services in a traditional acute care hospital. This level of advanced care is not found in other post-acute settings such as nursing homes. By offering a higher level of care, patients now can move from a traditional hospital setting into a new level of care that builds upon the care they received while at the hospital. This care will move the patient closer toward independence through advanced medical care and therapy. "We will be able to take them to that next level - which could be rehabilitation or home," said Hutson. "We look at this as part of a continuum of care," said CEO Rick Richards. "We are pleased to be part of the Post Falls community and eager to help patients from across the Inland Northwest. We believe we truly bring a new level of care to patients in our region." The process began just two years ago after parent company Ernest Health Inc., an Albuquerque based healthcare company, conducted market studies in areas of the west, taking into consideration population growth and community need. The company visited with local hospitals before deciding on the Post Falls location. "We chose Post Falls because the site is strategically located between the major hospitals," explained Hutson. Being flanked by two medical center hubs - North Idaho and Spokane - allows Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital to service both regions with quality patient care. Developing trust and building relationships with the local medical community has been crucial to the success of this hospital. "The best part of this experience has been how welcome we've felt by the area medical facilities," said Hutson. "We are not a competitor to anyone - we are just filling-in a niche market that wasn't being served before." Currently, Ernest Health, Inc. has six facilities sited throughout Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico and Texas and plans to open four additional hospitals in 2006. The mission of the company is the development and operation of rehabilitation and related post-acute healthcare facilities dedicated to the recovery of individuals who have functional challenges as a result of injury or illness. They promote a healing and nurturing environment at each of their facilities, responding to the medical, physical, psychological and social needs of their patients. Treatment is tailored based upon each patient's medical condition and needs. Using a team of doctors, therapists, nurses and social workers, the group works with family members to bring the patient to their highest level of self-sufficiency. The 40,000 square-foot facility has recently begun accepting patients on a full-time basis and expects to ramp up to a full census throughout the spring and summer months. The hospital plans to employ nearly 120 staff members in a variety of healthcare fields ranging from nursing and therapy to administrative support and food service. Continuing to accept applications for many positions, Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital offers competitive salaries for all levels of workers - the average salary is $41,000. Ernest Health Inc. believes that therapy is not just physical - it is also a very emotional experience. Patients need a caring, highly trained and supportive team to maximize recovery and regain independence. "Our team members will not only be highly qualified in their field of expertise, but they will also be passionate caregivers," said Richards. Dozens of regional subcontractors were hired to build the $15 million facility, infusing millions into the local economy. From landscapers and painters to equipment supply companies and glass installers, Ernest Healthcare and contractor MJ Harris took only seven months to complete the hospital. The 40-bed facility features eight intensive care beds, a 6,000 square-foot therapy gym, aquatic warm-water therapy pool, outdoor therapy courtyard and full-service cafeteria (equipped with a chef who promises not to serve hospital food). There are rooms for occupational and speech therapists, and even an "activities of daily living" room, where patients get to practice household tasks such as cooking meals, getting in and out of the bathtub and washing laundry. As a long-term facility, consideration of the patient's comfort was vital in the design and layout of the spacious, private rooms. "Our patients will be spending a lot of time here (the average stay is at least 25 days). We're focused on making it a comfortable stay," added Hutson. A Partnership


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The Inland Northwest's gorgeous natural surroundings are mirrored by ceramic tile-lined hallways, nature-depicting artwork and creamy walls bathed in earthy hues. Each room is flooded by natural light through picture windows. There are no ledges on the floors, making for clear sailing from bed to bath. Ultra-advanced beds are equipped with what is essentially their own built-in computer - armed with fall-preventing sensors and scales to check the patient's weight without disruption. Charting will be accomplished via the digital data world - COWS (computers on wheels) will help ensure speedy, concise delivery and exchange of vital patient information. Outfitted with state-of-the-art digital imaging technology along with the latest in information technology, the facility will be electronically linked to dozens of other medical facilities throughout the Inland Northwest area. In the coming months, Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital will be making a significant impact on the region's medical offerings by filling a much-needed role for acute long-term care. What this means for our medical community and patients is that there are now new options to help patients recover from serious illness or injury.



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