Summit Pacific planning $25 million expansion to Elma campus

Construction of a “wellness center” at Summit Pacific Medical Center’s Elma campus is expected to begin in March 2017.

The three-story, 60,000 square-foot building will house about 18 primary care providers, allowing for more specialized services at the hospital itself. The estimated cost for the project is $25 million.

The wellness center also will expand physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy services provided at the medical center. Elma’s HealthMart will open an additional retail pharmacy in the new space.

Other features in the new building may include a rock-climbing wall, an expanded café, classroom and conference space and possibly an indoor and covered outdoor playground area.

Similar to the current café in the medical center, the new, larger café would offer hormone-free, antibiotic-free, locally-sourced and freshly-made food. The classrooms may be used for parenting classes, diabetic health courses or other classes focused on healthy choices.

Renée Jensen, Summit Pacific chief executive officer, said SPMC was expanding to help meet the health needs of East County residents, but in a different way. Instead of being a place for sick patients to go, the wellness center will be a place for people to learn about and emphasize healthy lifestyles.

“We want people to focus on maintaining good health,” Jensen said. “We want to keep well people well.”

Jensen said Grays Harbor County ranks 38 out of 39 counties in Washington in terms of health, with residents dying about three years earlier than residents of other counties.

The leading causes of death in Grays Harbor County, according to a 2013 community health profile by the county Public Health and Social Services, are major cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular diseases, responsible for one third of deaths in the county, could be prevented through a better diet and increased physical activity.

Health risks common in Grays Harbor, such as an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, may lead to increased risk of developing a heart attack, stroke, heart failure and other cardiovascular issues.

Jensen cited the case of a local firefighter who visited SPMC every year for his annual physical. Overall, the man’s health was excellent — a younger, active adult; however, in one year, his cholesterol sky-rocketed. He had been eating a steak for dinner every night and did not know a diet high in animal fats can raise cholesterol.

“We failed him,” Jensen said. “If we were talking to him about his diet, he could have avoided the problem.”

Through the Wellness Center, Jensen hopes to educate East Grays Harbor County residents about behavioral health risks and to engage the community in being active participants in their own well-being.

“Imagine having a date night where you attend a cooking class and learn how to prepare healthy meals,” Jensen said. “Or parents learning how to cook healthy, locally sourced meals that kids actually want to eat. We can do that here.”

Jensen said improving the health culture in Grays Harbor County eventually will lead to lowered medical costs. The focus on prevention and good health habits may help to lessen the prevalence of certain diseases and may reduce hospitalization.

Another health issue the wellness center will address is a whole-body approach to health which includes mental health.

“Whatever the issue may be, we’ll treat the head and the body. You can’t treat them separately,” Jensen said.

While the final details are still in the works, Jensen said the wellness center will look at health on the Harbor in a whole new way.

“It’s a different way of thinking about health,” Jensen said. “It’s whole-body wellness.”

SPMC is a critical access hospital in Elma with a 24-hour emergency department and is a level II cardiac center, level III stroke center and a level IV trauma care center.