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Growing to meet your needs

Expanding care and providing a resilient future for our community

By Robert Holland, MD, PhD
President, CMH Board of Trustees

Following the consolidation of Columbia Hospital and St. Mary Hospital, Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH) opened its doors at 2111 Exchange St. in 1977. Since then, it’s added new clinics, providers and service lines, growing along with the ever-popular coastal region. From its humble beginnings in 1927 to its current status as one of the largest rural health care systems in the state, CMH has worked to bridge the gap between its rural location and access to specialty care close to home.

In line with CMH’s mission to provide excellence in caring for our community’s health needs, the Board of Trustees has recognized the need to upgrade. In 2017, we took the first step toward modernizing our campus with the opening of the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative. Now, to broaden the scope of our services and ensure state-of-the-art care throughout the hospital, we need to expand our physical spaces, streamline equipment and diagnostic services, and add specialties often found only in larger institutions.

After 45 years in our facility, it is time to consider a new hospital building project, introducing the area to a new era in health care. While the current hospital facility has been well-maintained, it lacks expandability and is vulnerable to earthquakes, tremors or tsunamis. We need a new, resilient health care facility that will endure and help the community thrive for the next 50 years.

That’s where an expanded facility comes in. As a private, not-for-profit health system, we are deeply committed to improving our community’s health and well-being, seeking new ways to innovate, and advancing our level of care and service while holding to our Planetree philosophy of person-centered care.

From our Family Birth Center to Lower Columbia Hospice, CMH aims to be the provider of choice and a trusted center of health and wellness for the region. For more than 11 years, we’ve partnered with Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to bring specialty services to the area.

Our continuing partnership with OHSU will maintain access to frontline medical changes, research and the best care available anywhere. The expanded facility will allow seamless coordination of care with physicians, surgeons and other health care professionals for nearly all levels of patient need, before birth and beyond.

The current facility can’t support the growing demand for services and providers in our area. Moreover, improvements are needed so it can survive a natural disaster. We intend to construct a facility that will take us into the next century while bringing safe, state-of-the-art health care to the Lower Columbia region.

Necessary growth

Growing to meet the needs of our community has always been a part of our plan.

In the past three years alone, the health care industry has been challenged like never before. As a rural hospital and regional trauma center, CMH has strategically grown to meet the needs of the community. For example, in 2010, the area was served by a visiting cardiologist two days a month. Now, five providers in the CMH-OHSU Health Cardiology Clinic care for patients.

Adding services like cardiology and oncology has allowed patients to stay close to home for convenient specialty care. CMH is a health care hub for the region, and it’s imperative to grow even more.

“Our current facility has served the community well and saved many lives,” says Erik Thorsen, CEO. “In the last decade, CMH and OHSU have launched many new service lines, and we have run out of spaces to grow. We need an expansion to better serve our growing patient population.”

CMH also wants to improve the resiliency standards upon which the original hospital was built. Since CMH opened in 1977, there have been countless advancements with seismic knowledge and standards. Now that we know more, we want CMH to be a place to seek refuge during an earthquake or tsunami, not a place that we need to evacuate.

Where we need to be

Patients come to CMH from as far away as Tillamook, Oregon, and Raymond, Washington, for specialties and services such as cancer treatment, pediatrics and pulmonology. More than 80 providers serve 35,000 patients, with numbers growing each year since 2014 (not including 2020, during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The CMH Board of Trustees, composed of 15 volunteer community members, has a vision for the hospital’s expansion in its current location in Astoria. With a shared goal of keeping the hospital viable and ensuring the delivery of safe, quality health care services, the Board is moving forward with the BuildCMH Expansion Project.

Some people have wondered why CMH would make such a big investment in building on its present land, but it’s exactly where we need to be. Because of the level of care we provide here, our service area has grown exponentially. This is where our community needs us.

The infrastructure to respond to a disaster

The current hospital was constructed without the knowledge we have today regarding the Cascadia Subduction Zone. In case of a natural disaster, the building could sustain major damage or worse. With an updated facility, built to last and serve patients in extreme conditions, CMH will provide the infrastructure necessary to respond to such an event.

“The team of architects, engineers and contractors that we are working with has many years of experience in health care design, and they are well-versed in building for resiliency and sustainability,” says Randy McClelland, BuildCMH Expansion Project director. “We’re excited to construct not just a center for health and wellness, but also a safe harbor for the community in a disaster situation.”

The expansion will focus on structural adaptability and minimized disruptions in case of catastrophe. It will meet the highest earthquake standards, and critical functions of the facility will remain operational even in an emergency.

We’re excited to construct an innovative, resilient hospital of the future to care for many generations to come.

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