St. Luke’s alternatives analysis for its master plan is incomplete, misleading, unconvincing and somewhat disingenuous. At least one other alternative exists that would meet emergency and other service criteria without closing Jefferson Street:
A southward expansion, replacing or built over the existing parking garage, meets the horizontal-service, connectivity and continuum-of-care objectives of the hospital’s proposed northward expansion.
It also obviates the need to take two more blocks of public right-of-way beyond that already vacated on Bannock and Avenue A.
Most of the hospital’s objections to expanding southward relate to placing the medical office building and parking garage eastward, across Avenue B. (St. Luke’s doesn’t own much of that land.) However, there is a way to keep those facilities north of Jefferson:
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Expand southward, connecting the main expansion to existing hospital floors and corridors as desired.
Relegate parking, central plant, shipping and receiving facilities to the Front/First/Jefferson “island,” where they are more accessible to thoroughfares and farther from residential areas.
Locate the office building across Jefferson from the existing medical “plaza,” which can expand to the west as shown and/or provide additional parking.
The new facilities can easily be connected to the main buildings across Jefferson — underground, overhead or both.
The hospital also criticized southward expansion because it would move the main entrance and emergency department: “Expansion to the south causes redevelopment of the entire front of the existing hospital. Patient and visitor access to front door is problematic.” However, St. Luke’s preferred, northward expansion envisions just that: redeveloping the entire front of the hospital by moving the main entrance to the Fort Street side of the expansion.
Southward expansion offers several workable options for locating the new entrance and the emergency department without vacating Jefferson. There are two emergency options: a grand entrance at the corner of Jefferson and Avenue B (or farther west on Jefferson); or an entrance on Avenue B across from East Bannock.
Other St. Luke’s objections to the southward expansion were not stated in the plan but came up in discussions: The inconvenience of closing the hospital’s main entrance during construction, and the additional cost of dealing with the existing parking structure. These objections are not insurmountable.
Alternate entrances can be provided during construction — a temporary inconvenience, which should be weighed against the permanent inconvenience to the public of disregarding the important connectivity built into the city’s comprehensive plan.
The possibility that the garage location could block optimal expansion alternatives should have been considered before the hospital built it; the public should not pay for the hospital’s shortsightedness.
Most troubling is the high-handed way St. Luke’s has approached its proposed master plan. Apparently its administrators haven’t heard of strategic development of informed consent.
This entails identifying at early planning stages everyone who might be affected by a proposed action and involving them deeply in the decision-making process so they have all the information upon which the ultimate decisions are based.
While they may not agree with the ultimate outcome, having been heard and understanding how costs and benefits were weighed, they are more likely to assent.
More importantly, these stakeholders actually may contribute to a better decision.
St. Luke’s “my way or the highway” attitude has turned out to be a two-way street. It has generated sentiment that perhaps St. Luke’s should move some of its services to the population center of the Treasure Valley: Meridian.
The city should send St. Luke’s back to work with their neighbors — with a copy of the city’s comprehensive plan — to guide them toward better integrating health services with neighborhood needs.
Gary E Richardson is a former Ada County Highway District commissioner (1997-98) who has lived in the St. Luke’s neighborhood for more than 30 years.