ELMA — The Summit Pacific Wellness Center began as a vision years ago. Grays Harbor Hospital District 1 leaders could see that health care best practices were shifting, stressing wellness and prevention over reactionary care, and they set out to get in front of the changes.
Many members of the community helped make the Wellness Center possible and on Friday, the public got its first look at the facility. Several hundred people turned out for a ribbon cutting and tours of the facility. Visitors seemed struck by the aesthetic appeal and the lack of institutional architecture found in most medical buildings.
But function — again stressing prevention — was still apparent in a carefully thought out interior design that complements the hospital district’s aim of making Elma and the rest of the county known for its holistic health habits, instead of the low ranking in health metrics that the county has been known for in recent years.
“When we were brainstorming this whole idea of a Wellness Center, I was in the room when it happened,” said Deborah Jayne, who was a chief nursing officer at the time. “And I said, ‘We have to have a playground.’ It’s the start of wellness. Children need a place to come. It has to be big enough for the entire kindergarten class to come all at once. And I know somebody who knows something about playgrounds. I put them in touch with GameTime.”
Jayne’s son, Eran Becker, was a graphic designer for GameTime, which manufactures playground equipment.
Becker would sit down with his mother to help in the design, but he didn’t get to see his work completed. He died in December 2016.
“My other son (Bryan) and I made a decision to dedicate money to the foundation in memory of Eran, but in support of wellness starting with children,” Jayne said. “So the playground was a focus for me.”
Inside the Wellness Center, there are three floors.
The first floor will contain physical therapy areas, including gym equipment for patients and staff. There’s private space for patients who need more serious, one-on-one therapy and a large, sunny exercise equipment room that looks like any major fitness center. There also is an area of offices for nonmedical personnel.
The second floor has the main entryway. Walking in from the north, once people pass the reception, they’re met with laboratory and imaging areas on the right and a full kitchen dining area on the left. There also is a fun rock and timber themed play/waiting area that over looks the climbing wall, which begins in the first-floor exercise room.
Near the dining area is a barn door that was created by Tyler Thompson, part-owner of Rusty Tractor, across the street from Summit Pacific.
The third floor is where the clinics will be. There are three hallways of exam rooms, with staff-only areas between them. One of the hallways will be dedicated to pediatric care. There is exam room space on that floor to accommodate 18 medical providers.
The facility cost more than $30 million.
John Elsner, the Summit Pacific Medical Foundation’s executive director, knows how much work went into making the Wellness Center possible.
“(The foundation’s) goal is to provide funds from a whole variety of sources to the Medical Center and Hospital District in a variety of areas, such as providing scholarships for the study of health care and new equipment for facilities like the Wellness Center,” he said. “We work with community organizations, individuals, company donors, grant writing. The foundation is intricately involved in the entire process.”
And they had the support of their neighbors.
”We’ve had tremendous support from the community,” he said. “Different companies, such as Willis Enterprises, Our Community Credit Union, Murphy company. A lot of the really big (East County) community employers have been a part of this.”
Dougherty Mortgage of Minneapolis was the only bank Summit executives went to that recognized the value of the vision put forth for the Wellness Center. Dougherty partners with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in being a source of revenue across the country for hospital projects, Dougherty Senior Vice President Brian Haapala said.
“This project is really different in being more community oriented and future focused around how we keep communities healthy,” he said. “A lot of lenders look at things much more traditionally from a risk-management perspective as opposed to how can we invest in organizations to support them for the future of health care. That was really one of our driving forces in supporting this project.”
He added, “This is really different in a sense that it is much more holistic and much more focused on helping people prevent being sick. The community has a lot to be proud of.”
There’s plenty of work yet to come.
Brandon Smith is the executive chef at Summit Pacific and is a certified dietary manager. His work, in a new kitchen he helped design, is just beginning. He will be teaching classes on healthful cooking, including helping diabetics and people with heart concerns eat better.
“In February, we’re going to do a couples class to kick off,” Smith said. “We’ll start from there.”
Ten health care providers already have been hired to help staff the Wellness Center.
“And for every provider we hire, we hire three FTEs (full-time equivalent employees) to support that provider,” Summit Pacific CEO Josh Martin said.
Additional work yet to be done includes completing the playground. There also will be an exercise path outside to get older folks active.
Jayne, the former chief nursing officer, is looking forward to having the playground completed. When it is, there will be a bench dedicated to Eran.
Near the bench will be a maple tree, which are plentiful in New York state where Eran Becker was born. Every year, the leaves will change and fall. Jayne and Bryan Becker will be able to sit there and see the fruition of all the effort that went into the facility. She’s looking forward to watching children play and develop wellness oriented habits.
“We should never stop playing,” Jayne said.