The 17 operating rooms in St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center are at full capacity. The 10 at Meridian St. Luke’s are about 80 percent capacity and climbing, according to Linda Petersen, manager of surgical services.
To keep up with demand, St. Luke’s is building a new outpatient surgery center in front of its Meridian hospital.
“Outpatient surgeries have quadrupled over the last decade due to advances in medical technology, better patient outcomes, better patient recoveries, etc., so the demand for surgery has really, really, really grown exponentially,” Petersen says.
More than 50 percent of St. Luke’s Meridian surgeries don’t require hospitalization, and patients go home later that day. The new surgery center will focus solely on outpatient procedures, and Petersen says there are a lot of benefits to that. For one, “it’s three to four times more expensive to perform a surgery in a hospital setting than it is in a surgery center setting,” she says. “So it’s more cost-effective for the patient and the insurance companies.”
Another perk: Petersen says patients tend to recover better at home than they do in the hospital. It gives them a break from the poking and prodding of nurses checking vitals and taking blood samples.
And, moving more surgeries away from the hospital operating rooms leaves those rooms available for emergency surgeries. St. Luke’s always leaves one room open for emergencies, but the preference is two.
The new surgery center will have six operating rooms, but they’ll start out using only two. Once they reach capacity in those, they can expand to the other rooms. Six general surgeons already employed by St. Luke’s will rotate through on the days the center will be open: Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Petersen says they’ll mostly perform hernia repairs, gall bladder removals, breast-lump removals and other small mass removals that need general anesthetic. All surgeries there will be pre-planned and take about three hours from check-in to discharge. Since St. Luke’s already has two orthopedic surgery centers, those procedures won’t be scheduled in the new facility.
Petersen says she’s trying to recruit from in-house to fill most positions, but she will have to hire some nurses, surgery technicians, support and registration staff. She expects to hire about 16 new people. Those jobs are already posted.
St. Luke’s is spending $12 million on the new center, from construction to surgical equipment to furnishings. Building the center in only nine months is “incredible and extremely expensive,” Petersen says.
But Ken Dey, St. Luke’s media manager, says the hospital budgeted well for the addition.
“We’re careful not to overbuild,” he says. “We build to the need.”
The center’s lead developer is Tom Ahlquist of Gardner Co., and ESI is the general contractor. They also built St. Luke’s Nampa location.
Dey says they’re familiar with medical construction. “We’ve had a long relationship with them,” he says.
Carl Benjamin, ESI’s superintendent, says the construction is right on track.
“It’s a very tight schedule, but we knew this going in,” he says. The most critical race is against the cold weather. Benjamin says the asphalt and paving must be done before the ground starts freezing. He says his crews have worked 16 hours a day, six days a week to stay on track.
Petersen says she’s impressed with the progress, and she will be happy to have the center open in December — a busy surgery month because it’s the end of the year for insurance purposes. She predicts the center will be using all six operating rooms within two years.