The plans call for a 12-story tower for inpatient care. Elizabeth Wako, CEO of Swedish Health Services, says it will be a ‘state-of-the-art’ facility for the Pacific Northwest.
Providence Swedish is moving ahead with a $1.3 billion project that includes a new, 12-story tower for inpatient care in Seattle.
It’s the most ambitious project ever for Providence Swedish, says Elizabeth Wako, president and CEO of Swedish Health Services. Providence, the large health system based in Washington, has been affiliated with Swedish since 2012, and the organizations adopted a unified brand last year. Wako tells Chief Healthcare Executive® a modern hospital is needed at the First Hill campus.
“It's a pretty amazing project and an essential project,” Wako says.
“As we look at our current operating rooms and our emergency rooms, they date back to the 1960s,” she says. “So if we want to be able to provide care in the community, it’s pretty essential that this project be done.”
The new North Tower is expected to be completed by the fall of 2027. The project also calls for a new, adjacent outpatient building, which will be connected to the new tower by a skybridge. The timetable for the outpatient building isn’t set, as it depends upon the completion of the inpatient building.
The inpatient tower will include a modern surgical area, with 24 operating suites. The emergency department will feature 31 rooms, including suites designed for patients with mental health needs. It will also feature 72 intensive care unit beds that can be adapted to meet future needs.
The building is being designed with flexibility for future needs in mind, including “shell space” on several floors that can be used to add beds or room for more procedures.
The plans also call for supportive space for patients and visitors.
An investment in Seattle
Wako has been involved in the development of the plans for some time, and she beams when talking about the new tower.
“I'm just really excited about it,” Wako says. “It is going to be a world-class healthcare facility here in the Pacific Northwest, and I think this region deserves state-of-the-art healthcare. So I think we feel pretty proud that we're going to have the opportunity to be able to deliver it.”
While she talks about the new building being an asset to the Pacific Northwest, Wako repeatedly shares her excitement about building a modern hospital in Seattle.
“I definitely feel like we are part of the community,” Wako says. “We're part of Seattle and so anything we can do to help invest in the urban core, I'm pretty proud of.”
“Swedish has a legacy of service to the community for 113 years,” she adds. “And as I said before, Swedish is the cornerstone of healthcare for Seattle. So I think being able to make this transformational investment, I love that we're able to show our city our commitment to downtown Seattle, especially when revitalizing downtown is more important now than ever.”
Designing a modern, green hospital
At a time when health systems are delivering more care outside the hospital, either in outpatient settings or at home, Wako says the new building is being planned with an eye toward an evolving system of patient care.
“I think you design for what acute care is going to look like in the future,” Wako says. “And what acute care in the future is going to look like is definitely EDs. So we need emergency rooms to be able to provide acute care, operating rooms. Because while there are many things that will be done in outpatient facilities, there are certainly cases that will always be done in a hospital, that require ICU, post-op care or an inpatient visit. That will never go away.”
“So that's why when you look at this tower, it's really focused on emergency rooms, OR suites and the 72 ICU care rooms,” she says.
In the environmentally-conscious Seattle area, Wako points to the “green” aspects of the new building. Providence Swedish has a goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.
“This project really helps kind of accelerate that for us,” Wako says.
The building will have carbon-neutral features and use non-fossil-fuel steam and reclaim wasted heat through infrastructure updates.
The new tower will also be designed to be more compliant with local regulations for buildings to withstand seismic activity.
“When you think about an earthquake happening, you're really going to want to make sure your hospitals are going to be up and running and able to receive care,” Wako says.
‘A labor of love’
Providence Swedish is borrowing to finance the construction of the tower, but there will be a “philanthropic component,” she says.
Wako says Providence Swedish has wanted to begin the project for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed those plans. As with most health systems, Providence Swedish was hit hard financially. Supply chain disruptions and higher construction costs also added to the challenges.
Now, Wako says, the conditions are more favorable, even though the project is an expensive endeavor.
But she says it can’t be delayed any longer.
“This project, it's not optional,” she says. “It's essential.”
Providence Swedish delivers 37% of the inpatient care in King and Snohomish counties, and the aging facilities need to be replaced. Some issues have included breaking pipes, which led to flooding.
“I think we've hit a point where we really just have to move forward, and we spent a lot of time working on it, looking at our finances, seeing what we can do to make it possible,” Wako says. “So it's definitely a labor of love, I will say.”
The new tower could also help Providence Swedish recruit and retain talent, she says.
“Your environment is a big part of your work experience, and it does definitely contribute to your desire to stay as part of an organization,” Wako says. “And so investing in our facilities in many ways is investing in our caregivers.”
Providence Swedish produced a video about the project.