St. Charles Bend will build a new patient tower on its northeast campus in a $66 million project that will nearly double its number of intensive care unit beds by 2018 and reduce the need to send patients to Portland instead.

Bob Gomes, CEO of St. Charles Bend and Redmond, said with the population growth in Central Oregon as well as an expansion into more complex surgeries at the hospital, St. Charles Bend is regularly facing capacity issues for both critical and inpatient beds.

So far this year, the hospital has sent more than 200 critical care patients to hospitals in Portland when its 18-bed critical care unit was full.

“Most of those, if we had the capacity, we could take care of here,” Gomes said.

The new tower will nearly double the critical care capacity at the hospital to between 32 and 36 beds.

For less critical-care patients, St. Charles Bend relies on its Redmond, Prineville and Madras hospitals to provide overflow capacity. Currently, a nurse-led team meets twice a day to manage capacity, deciding whether patients can be safely transferred or diverted to another hospital or if they can be held in the emergency room or recovery area for a few hours until a bed opens up.

A second phase of construction will add a short-stay observation unit with 30 to 40 beds on the third and fourth floors of the new tower, designed to house patients who are expected to stay in the hospital less than 48 hours. That short-stay unit would then ease pressure on the existing inpatient floors.

The new capacity will require additional staffing. Gomes said the hospital plans to hire 30 to 40 additional nurses and a handful of new physicians to meet the demand.

The construction project will begin in late summer or early fall with a new 500-space parking lot built beyond the road that encircles the hospital. Staff will be asked to park outside the ring road to leave spaces closer to the hospital for patients.

The new tower will cover 170 current parking spots north of the existing hospital. While design plans have not been finalized, Gomes said once completed, the new tower will join seamlessly with the current structure.

The tower will house behavioral health and physician emergency services on the bottom floor, critical and intermediate care units on the first floor and the short-stay rooms on the third and fourth floors. The construction project will also add a second water line.

“This project is so important for the future of health care in Central Oregon,” Joe Sluka, president and CEO of St. Charles Health System, said in a statement announcing the construction. “We’re moving forward with a plan that will ensure we can continue to meet our patients’ needs for many years to come.”

The hospital system selected Skanska and NBBJ Architects to complete the design and build the additions. St. Charles will cover the cost of construction by issuing bonds, but officials indicated they would also reach out to the community for support.

“This project represents a significant investment in the future,” said Dan Schuette, board chairman of St. Charles Health System. “It is a commitment by St. Charles to provide the high level of care our growing communities have come to expect.”

In 2014, the hospital system embarked on a $27.7 million makeover, expanding 80 patient rooms and enlarging 60 bathrooms in the existing building. That project is expected to be completed next year.

— Reporter: 541-617-7814,