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Life Savings

01/08/2014 03:21PM ● By Kerri Regan
By Kerri Regan
Photo by Betsy Erickson

The Mercy Family donates for emergency department updates

The folks who save lives in Mercy Medical Center Redding’s emergency department every day knew their overcrowded workspace desperately needed an overhaul.

So they pitched in a half-million dollars of their own money to help make it happen.

“The hospital graciously agreed to make the emergency department expansion a priority, and we knew we had to be a part of it,” says emergency physician Pamela Ikuta. “It’s that ‘put your money where your mouth is’ kind of thing. We’re not just the doctors in the ER. We are members of this community. We all live here. Our kids go to school here. We go to church here. It’s absolutely essential to provide the very best care that we can, and it wasn’t an option not to support it wholeheartedly.”

The four-phase project, which will be complete this month, increases the emergency department from 22 beds (most separated by curtains) to 30 larger, private rooms, allowing patients to be seen more quickly and comfortably. The rooms are outfitted with state-of-the-art technology and soothing artwork. “It’s really built around the patient,” says Rob Barth, director of emergency services.

A 4,165-square-foot expansion, a remodel of nearly 12,000 square feet and a variety of other upgrades will enable the emergency department to accommodate up to 66,000 patients per year. The old facility was designed for 44,000, but about 55,000 people visit the emergency department annually. Mercy’s Level II Trauma Center serves Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity, Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas and Sierra counties — nearly a quarter of California’s land mass. 

The $18.5 million project was funded by Dignity Health and Mercy Foundation North, a philanthropic organization sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. More than a third of the $1.5 million raised by the foundation was donated by the “Mercy family” of employees and physicians.

Those donations were critical to the campaign’s success, Barth says. “When you go to the community and you ask them to partner with you in the way of a donation, the first thing they want to know is, the people who are working there, are they doing something? We could say, ‘Yes, they are, to the tune of half a million dollars because they believe in the project.’” 

Some donated in cash, while others traded in their vacation time. “Some said, ‘I’d really like to give — I don’t have any extra money, but I have a lot of time built up.’ They were still able to contribute and enjoy that same satisfaction of people who were able to put down large sums of money,” Barth says.

Surgeon Patrick Fowler donated not only because he practices at Mercy, but because he was a patient there after he broke his neck skiing in Lake Tahoe. “I needed to have urgent surgery and they wanted to airlift me to Reno, but my faith in the trauma system at Mercy led me back there,” Fowler says. 

Mark Korth, president of Dignity Health North State and Mercy Medical Center Redding, says, “The funds raised through employee and physician giving have not only made a big financial impact, it is an endorsement for the critical need to ensure quality health care to the communities Mercy Medical Center Redding serves.”

A bonus: Most of the project was completed by local carpenters, electricians, estimators, architects and subcontractors, says Rodger Page, Mercy’s senior director of support services and physician recruitment. “It’s been pretty neat. As we were building, we’d get input from staff and other people, and we were able to tweak and modify it better than the original design,” says Page, who was born at Mercy. “It was really exciting and fun to do.”

  The Mercy team thanked community members who contributed to the project. “They rose to the occasion and completely funded the portion we needed to raise. It shows the heart of people in the North State,” Barth says. 

Says Jesse Wells, medical director of the emergency department: “We now have everything we need to deliver world-class care for the North State.”

Ikuta concludes, “I feel like we came from the Flintstones into the Jetsons. It’s awesome.”