AP NEWS

Valley Hospital celebrates 50 years of community care

March 21, 2019

The name and affiliation might have changed over the years, but MultiCare Valley Hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary this year as a community hospital focused on serving the residents in the neighborhoods of Spokane Valley.

Spokane Valley General Hospital opened on Jan. 26, 1969, but there was a problem. An epic snowstorm had shut down the roads. The first patient at the 95-bed hospital wasn’t actually seen until Feb. 6.

The first hospital administrator was Tom Markson, who is now retired but still lives in the area. He arrived in 1968 from St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, to oversee construction of the hospital. “I was the first employee,” he said. “I wasn’t pounding nails, but pretty close.”

The hospital happened largely because doctors with offices in Spokane Valley were tired of driving downtown all the time to see their patients in the hospital, Markson said. The hospital was founded by the same people who ran the Woodland Park Hospital in Portland. “They mustered the money to come and build a 95-bed hospital,” he said.

After the hospital opened, things happened quickly. The emergency room, the only one in Spokane Valley, was immediately busy. In September of that year Valley Hospital became the first hospital to offer round-the-clock emergency room service staffed by doctors. In 1970 it opened the first medical helicopter pad.

“We were first in many respects,” Markson said.

Now the hospital is headed by president Greg Repetti, who has been there since 2014. He’s heard the stories of the hospital’s early days and has been able to reminisce with Markson. “At the time it was just a routine community hospital, which we still are in many ways,” Repetti said. “The complexity of things we can do here has increased.”

The hospital has carved out a niche in the area of joint surgeries and performs more than 800 a year. The facility was the first in the state to earn the Joint Commission’s advanced certification in knee and hip replacement, Repetti said.

“That’s a lot for a small hospital,” Repetti said.

And of course, there have been babies, thousands of babies. There are some 750 babies born at Valley Hospital every year now. Last year 44,000 people visited the hospital’s emergency room, and there were 52,000 outpatient procedures, with another 6,000 people admitted, Repetti said. “We just continue to grow the services,” he said.

The hospital has also been doing cardiac catheter procedures and is creating a new cardiac catheter lab that should be up and running by the end of the year, he said. “We have just kind of grown as the community has grown,” he said. “Our job is to try to meet the needs of this incredible community we are a part of.”

The hospital’s emergency room is a Level III Trauma Center, which is enough to handle most car crashes and injuries. More complex cases are sent to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, which has the area’s only Level II Trauma Center. “It’s the right level for us,” Repetti said of the Level III rating.

There are limits on what the hospital can handle and Repetti is conscious of that. “We don’t do things we’re not capable of,” Repetti said. “You won’t have open heart surgery here.”

The hospital already held one anniversary celebration in January, but more are planned. He hopes to organize a reunion in July for people born at Valley Hospital over the past five decades. “We find ways to party,” Repetti said.

The hospital has changed hands several times over the years. It was purchased by St. Luke’s Hospital and Humana in 1980. St. Luke’s merged with Deaconess Medical Center to create Empire Health Services in 1984. The Empire Health Services system was purchased by Community Health Systems in 2008 and then by MultiCare Health System in 2017.

The hospital seems to be doing something right as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. It was recently awarded a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the only hospital in Eastern Washington to earn such a high rating. The rating is based on seven areas, including safety of care, effectiveness of care and patient experience.

“Our patients give us good marks,” Repetti said. “We work hard at it.”

Only 6 percent of the 4,500 hospitals rated nationally received a five-star rating. “It’s an affirmation,” Repetti said. “I’m thrilled to get that honor. Our drive is to stay there.”

He points to the hospital’s employees as a key reason for the hospital’s success. Everyone from the nurses to the housekeeping staff is excellent, he said. “They’ve made the big difference here,” he said.

Repetti said his mission is to continue serving the community while providing high quality care. “I like what we’re doing here,” he said.

He said the community trusts his staff to be there in their moments of joy and moments of sorrow. “We are invited to be a part of those special times,” he said. “It’s humbling, candidly, to fill this role. I think we all work very hard to never forget that.”

Markson said that when he served as administrator he liked giving back to the community and developing the growing hospital to meet the community’s medical needs.

“It’s sustained for 50 years,” he said. “The Valley is their own community. It kept that warmth factor. Your neighbors are your patients.”