Hospital opens heart screening services, new birthing center

Jul 23, 2020

This screen capture shows a labor room from the new Central Peninsula Hospital family birthing center.
Credit Central Peninsula Hospital

Though most of the attention around health care is focused on the coronavirus pandemic right now, Central Peninsula Hospital also recently finished a project to expand its services in Soldotna.

This winter, the project to remodel the hospital and stand up a new catheterization lab, childbirth facility, and to rearrange part of the hospital for more room and security was finished. It cost about $32 million, with about $27 million of that coming from Kenai Peninsula Borough bonds. The construction was started about two years ago as part of the hospital’s long-term service expansion plan, and it opened just in time to have the hospital lock down under the COVID-19 mandates.

Bruce Richards, the government and external affairs manager for the hospital, says the pandemic is stopping expectant families from touring the new birthing center at the hospital in person, but they can still see it online.

"We completely removed the OB section from the old part of the hospital up to the new top floor," he said. "That’s open and running. People can go see that online in a video because we can’t give tours. In addition to that, we have the new outpatient lab, we moved the pharmacy, and we have a bigger storage and receiving area in the back of the hospital that’s open, and the final part that was finished very recently was adding three new ICU beds. So we went from six intensive care unit beds to nine."

A catheterization lab, or cath lab for short, is a bigger new service for the hospital. Peninsula residents who needed heart screenings like an angiogram in the past have had to go to Anchorage. Now, they can go to Central Peninsula Hospital instead. Richards says it was slow at first because of the restrictions from the pandemic, but now it’s picking up.

"I think we had a pretty big week last week—we had six cardiac cath procedures last week, then also issues for interventional radiology procedures," he said. "So yeah, all those folks normally would have had to leave here and go to Anchorage to have those procedures done. So yeah, it’s a big deal. Opening a cath lab during the middle of a pandemic probably isn’t the best thing to do and people are staying away, because those procedures, a lot of them in fact are elective procedures."

That’s in line with how the hospital has worked on developing its new facilities for the past several years. The last major addition was the cancer treatment center, including a medical oncologist, which allowed peninsula residents experiencing cancer to stay home rather than have to go to Anchorage.

Richards says the hospital is still planning to renovate the parking in front, including moving the handicap parking closer to the front of the building. That will be a phased project, but he says it’s scheduled to start this summer.

For now, the hospital is still staying the course on its COVID-19 mitigation procedures, with testing required for all outpatient surgeries and testing for inpatients. Statewide, tests are taking longer to turn around because of the volume, according to state officials, in part because of the increasing number of people showing signs of infection or who have been in contact with people who have tested positive.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@kdll.org.