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French Hospital announces $100 million expansion plans

A major announcement made Thursday at French Hospital Medical Center (FHMC) aims to redefine health care in San Luis Obispo County.

“It’s about transforming the kind of care that we can provide to our community,” said FHMC President and CEO Alan Iftiniuk. “It will be the creation of a brand new hospital with features found in no other in the County of San Luis Obipso.”

At a gathering inside the Copeland Health Education Pavilion on the FHMC campus, Dignity Health Central Coast revealed plans that will dramatically expand FHMC with a $100 million-plus, four-story addition.

“This is an extremely exciting day in the evolution of healthcare in SLO County,” said FHMC Community Board Chairman Leopold Selker. “It represents the rightsizing of French Hospital Medical Center for the needs of the community and for French’s national reputation.”

Already named as one of the top 100 hospitals in the United States, the new addition will significantly strengthen the highly respected medical facility.

“Some people have described French as a mini-Mayo Clinic given the quality scores,” Selker said. “This will enhance that even more so because we’ll have scale and there will be less reason for residents in the county to go anywhere else for health care.”

Currently still in the planning phase, the new hospital is scheduled to move into the design phase in May. A review phase is set to begin in December and last about a year.

Construction on the 85,000 square foot building is set to begin in November 2019.

“It really isn’t about bricks and mortar, although that’s a big component,” Iftiniuk said. “It’s really redefining and implementing changes that will really affect our entire community in the way we’re able to provide care to our community. It is transformational.”

The new hospital will feature several new amenities, including 95 private patient rooms, which will be the first in the county. When the rooms are completed, they’ll combine with existing rooms at FHMC to bring the total amount to 115.

“We’re developing a really great program to improve the comfort, the dignity, the privacy of the patient,” said Vice Chief of Staff Dr. Andrea Tackett. “We’re looking forward to being able to deliver care in private facilities with very close work stations for the staff, but without them being in the space of the patients and their families.”

Other features include an eight-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, five intensive care unit patient suites, a new front entrance and lobby, helipad, expanded space for imaging, labs, materials management, food preparation and additional parking spaces.

“The physicians and nurses are always excited about being able to offer more to the patients,” said Dr. Tackett. “This is developing lots of service lines. We’re expanding care for the sickest patients of all patients, from the tiniest of patients to the oldest patients, expanding services for the emergency department and expanding with a helipad, which will allow us to get people in and out who really need emergency care.”

According to Iftiniuk, what really sets this expansion project apart is that it is being done with patient needs as the top priority.

“It’s really about the patient,” Iftiniuk said. “Every time we have a planning or design meeting, the first question we’re asking is how will this affect the patient, how will this benefit the patient.”

The new facility will be completely state-of-the-art and feature cutting edge, advanced technology.

“We’re going to bring in new technologies,” said Iftiniuk. “We’re re-thinking every aspect of care from the moment you walk into register at our hospital, to the moment that you’re discharged, using available technologies and futuristic technologies.”

One of the most important technologies the hospital will utilize will help reduce energy costs.

“There are new technologies for energy management,” said Studio Design Group project architect Brian Starr. “By using smart technologies, new energy systems and monitoring them with computers, you can cut that energy substantially and draw your energy at peak period times and the new hospital will actually use less energy than the existing hospital.”

Funding will come primarily through hospital operations, but community outreach will also be made.

“We’ll be announcing a campaign in the near future to help support this massive undertaking,” said Iftiniuk “The community has been incredibly generous and supportive of French Hospital. We couldn’t be where we are at today without that generosity, so we’re very, very grateful and dependent upon our community to support our vision.”

Once completed, French Hospital Medical Center will be the largest hospital in San Luis Obispo County.

Construction is scheduled to be completed Mid-2022.

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