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CMH releases FAQs regarding BuildCMH Expansion Project

Hospital news | Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Contact: Sarah Bello

As previously publicized, CMH is in the planning stages for the BuildCMH Expansion Project. Below are some FAQs that we hope answer many of the questions we've been getting from the community thus far. Note that they reflect the current plans, and many things could change as we continue through the project's phases.

We have also included a photo gallery of the most up-to-date renderings below.

Who made the decision to expand CMH?
The BuildCMH Expansion Project is the culmination of a long-term strategic growth plan adopted by the hospital’s Board of Trustees. The Board is made up of dedicated volunteer community members who establish the vision and mission of the organization.

Why is CMH expanding?
This expansion is the culmination of a long-term strategic growth plan adopted by the CMH Board of Trustees. There are three primary reasons why this expansion is necessary:

  1. The age of the current facility: The current hospital was state-of-the-art when it opened in 1977. It’s now nearly 46 years old. While it has saved many lives and served the community well, critical infrastructure is beginning to fail or in need of major upgrades. The current facility was also constructed in an era where health care was primarily delivered in an inpatient setting, and patient amenities were not considered at all. Health care is much different today — roughly 80% of CMH’s care is delivered on an outpatient basis, patient privacy is paramount, and a more holistic approach toward health and wellness is necessary.
  2. Growth: Over the past decade, CMH and OHSU have brought many new providers and specialties to the region. During this time, the number of CMH caregivers has increased from 400 to 750. CMH has simply outgrown the current facility and needs additional space to continue to serve the community.
  3. Resiliency: As we have all learned, there are significant risks of living near the Cascadia Subduction zone. The North Coast is susceptible to significant earthquakes and tsunamis. The current facility was constructed entirely out of wood and is not built on a foundation that could withstand a major earthquake or tsunami. CMH’s hospital is a critical need facility and must remain operational during a natural disaster. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the construction, there is not a cost-effective way to retrofit or upgrade the present facility.

Where will the expansion be built?
After significant due diligence, including a long-range master campus planning engagement with ZGF, the CMH Board has determined the best location for the expansion facility is between the Professional Office Building 1 and the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative. The expansion facility will be attached to the existing hospital near the current West Lobby.

Why would you build an expansion in a tsunami zone?
The CMH Board is committed to building a state-of-the-art facility that will be able to withstand a major earthquake and tsunami. CMH has hired multiple experts to assist in studying and designing a resilient structure. We completed due diligence on landslide risks with GRI (Geotechnical Resources, Inc.), which resulted in shifting the entire footprint of the new facility to the northwest. We also partnered with some of the best consultants in the Pacific Northwest, including Degenkolb Engineers and the University of Washington, to study the impacts of earthquakes and potential tsunamis on the building site.

This facility will keep all critical infrastructure (generators, water storage, IT components, helipad) on the roof, above any potential flooding. Any service located on the first floor will have the ability to move to the second floor. The new facility will also have a tsunami safe refuge area for CMH caregivers, patients and community members, with evacuation possible from the roof. CMH hopes this facility will be a model for other coastal hospitals.

What has been included in CMH’s due diligence for this project?
CMH has engaged regional Emergency Management leadership and some of the best consultants in the Pacific Northwest, such as DOGAMI, University of Washington, Oregon Emergency Management, and Clatsop County, in addition to a strong team of experienced geotechnical and civil engineers to understand the risks on the CMH campus.

Along with our partners, we’ve analyzed resiliency for soil liquefaction, landslides, seismic and tsunami events. We’ve also studied parking and traffic impacts with the City of Astoria and Kittleson traffic engineers.

What is the timeline for the project?
Anticipated groundbreaking is late 2024 with two years of construction.

What is the budget for the project?
CMH is an independent, private, not-for-profit hospital that receives zero taxpayer dollars from our community. We have a preliminary construction budget of $175 million. Funding for the project will come from four primary sources: new debt, cash reserves, philanthropy and grants. No local tax dollars will be used to build the hospital expansion.

The CMH Foundation just launched a capital campaign to raise $10 million by the end of 2026. We have also applied for a $20 million FEMA Building Resiliency in Communities (BRIC) grant that will help fund resiliency features. We anticipate hearing back about the grant in Summer 2023.

How will the hospital be designed?
The design for the expansion will follow CMH’s commitment to the Planetree philosophy of person-centered care. Like the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative and the CMH Health & Wellness Pavilion, the expansion project will reflect the region’s architecture and beauty, emphasizing natural light, views and efficiency in the delivery of care.

What do the plans for the expansion include?
The planned design includes total new construction of approximately 180,000 square feet, including a critically needed expansion of the CMH Emergency Department. Other expanded areas include additional operating rooms, larger patient rooms, lab draw, radiology services, a new chapel, dedicated caregiver respite areas, and dining facilities.

The size of the facility will help us preserve patient dignity and privacy by creating private corridors, private bathrooms for inpatients, and more space in registration areas. There also will be improved parking, public and waiting areas for family members.

How tall will the expansion facility be?
The expansion will include four floors — three floors providing patient care and one floor housing resiliency measures and mechanical technology. The helipad will be located on the roof of the fourth floor.

Why is the hospital staying at 25 beds and not adding more?
The Board of Trustees completed significant due diligence on the appropriate number of beds. 25 inpatient beds were reaffirmed, and we believe our 25 beds meet the inpatient need for the area into the future. It’s important to note that health care has overwhelmingly shifted to more of an outpatient care model. The new facility will be designed in a manner to account for this shift, including many additional Emergency, Observation and Same Day Surgery rooms.

What new services will be coming with the expansion?
This expansion will allow CMH to continue to grow, bringing new services and state-of-the-art technology and equipment to the community. The CMH Board is focused on providing those specialties that are appropriate for a rural facility to offer and keeping patients from having to travel out of the area for care. Some services we plan on adding include:

  • Robotic surgery
  • Dedicated interventional radiology suite
  • Additional telemedicine services with OHSU
  • Increased mammography services
  • Dedicated imaging equipment in the Emergency Department
  • Increased access to advanced imaging with new CT, MRI and PET CT machines
  • Increased behavioral health services, including rooms designed for this service in the Emergency Department
  • Dedicated observation unit
  • Beautiful, new OB suites, with private labor tubs in each room
  • Expanded access to surgery and outpatient procedures

Who is giving input into the expansion plan?
Throughout the planning process, CMH will seek feedback from frontline caregivers, providers, the Planetree Caregiver Council, Patient Family Advisory Committee, leadership, community members and strategic partners, such as Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). We will strive to keep everyone informed and involved as the project moves forward.

How many new jobs will be created with the expansion?
CMH offers competitive wages and benefits, and one of its operational goals is to remain the best place to work in our area. Since 2009, CMH has added more than 350 area jobs. We anticipate this expansion will initially add 50 new jobs when it opens. As we add more providers and services, more jobs will be created.

How is CMH able to build an expansion hospital given the current economy?
We have an amazing, dedicated group of providers, caregivers, volunteers, board members and leaders at CMH who provide outstanding care to the community. We have strategically planned for this expansion for many years. Our unique partnership with OHSU, growth in services and stability have created the foundation necessary for this expansion.

What is OHSU’s involvement in the expansion project?
OHSU has been involved throughout the planning process. OHSU is our strategic partner. Together, we will build upon our successful, 15+ year relationship. With the expansion project, there will be nothing structurally different about our collaboration with OHSU from today. CMH will remain a community-led, independent organization.

Who do we direct media inquiries to?
All requests from the media should be directed to Sarah Bello, CMH Marketing manager. She can be reached at 503.338.4504 or

Photo gallery of renderings: