By Tara Bannow

The Bulletin

Two entrances and a parking lot on the north side of St. Charles Bend will close Thursday to make way for a three-story patient tower that will add urgently needed beds to a hospital that’s often full.

Workers will spend the coming weeks digging up the parking lot and preparing the site of the hospital’s new wing, which will attach on the north side. Construction on the building begins next month.

The closures include Parking Lot H, an entrance used by imaging and rehabilitation patients and an employee entrance. Those patients and employees are directed to enter the hospital through its main entrance on the east side of the building.

After announcing the $66 million patient tower project in July 2016, St. Charles’ board of directors approved a revised plan with the same price tag this past summer they say better fits the community’s needs. Namely, it calls for the addition of new inpatient beds right away rather than in a later phase.

Selena Smith, St. Charles’ director of operations for strategic nursing initiatives, said there’s urgency to add more inpatient beds because the hospital is often full.

“There are times we’re at capacity in every single unit, and we want to provide care for not only our critical care patients but also our other patient population that comes in and needs beds outside of the ICU,” said Smith, who serves as a liaison between the construction project and hospital administrators.

The first floor will feature a 24-bed intensive care unit, a scaled back version of the 32- to 36-bed unit originally envisioned. Once the new ICU is complete, St. Charles will close its existing 18-bed ICU, creating a net gain of six beds.

The second floor of the patient tower will feature 28 inpatient beds, which will bring the total number of inpatient beds in the hospital to about 290. The original plan called for the construction of between 30 and 40 inpatient beds in a later phase.

Six might not sound like a lot of new ICU beds, but St. Charles spokeswoman Lisa Goodman explained the ICU is often crowded with patients who are recovering and need to be discharged to a regular inpatient bed, but can’t because they’re full. St. Charles expects that the tower’s new inpatient beds will solve that problem. If St. Charles determines it needs more ICU beds in the future, it will build eight new beds in the space that holds the current ICU, she said.

St. Charles initially planned to build a four-story tower with two and a half of those floors — the lower level, the first floor and half of the third floor — undeveloped. Now, only the approximately 2,000 square foot lower level will remain undeveloped.

“We haven’t really looked into the future of what will go there,” Smith said of the lower level. “That will come over time of what our community really needs in the future, and then we’ll base our decision off of that.”

A small portion of the lower level will house the building’s plumbing and electrical systems.

Rehabilitation patients and those visiting the hospital for MRI or CT scans will be directed to park in a specific area within Parking Lot F near the hospital’s main entrance.

Goodman warned that those patients will need to walk farther inside the hospital to get where they need to go. She said there will be wheelchairs and wagons near the main entrance for adults and children who have difficulty walking that far. Volunteers will be stationed at the entrance to direct people.

“We understand that it might be an inconvenience for them to park in places they’re not accustomed to parking and entering the facility in places they’re not accustomed to entering the facility,” Goodman said. “So we just appreciate people’s patience, and we’re here to help in any way we can.”

St. Charles waited to close Parking Lot H until it completed and opened two new parking areas designed to offset the loss. Parking lots O and P east of the hospital, which together contain about 500 stalls, opened in May, resulting in a net gain of 208 stalls.

Portions of Loop Road circling the hospital, closed since July, will reopen Thursday.

St. Charles is also adding clinic space to its Immediate Care facility adjacent to the Bend hospital, an 8-month project that begins next week. During construction, the facility will remain open, but patients will need to park on the east side of the building rather than in the usual lot on the west side of the building.

— Reporter: 541-383-0304,