There was much to celebrate for Franciscan Health System in July, after a late June deadline for appealing the Certificate of Need for a proposed Gig Harbor Hospital had come and gone, with no new objections from any of the organizations that opposed the project earlier in the year.

At a community meeting at the Key Pen Civic Center, representatives from Franciscan and the hospital’s architect firm shared the good news. Hospital representatives said earlier that the appeals could cost millions of dollars and delay the hospital for years. Since no appeals were made, plans to bring the state-of-the-art facility to the area will proceed on schedule.

The state approved the Certificate of Need in May, much sooner than expected. About 700 residents wrote letters to the state in support of the hospital, named St. Anthony’s. Franciscan representatives believe the prompt approval was due in part to overwhelming community support. “Our evaluation shows this (hospital) is needed, and the people who live there told us loud and clear that they want local access to care,” said Laurie Jinkins, acting assistant secretary of Health Professions Quality Assurance Division of the Department of Health in announcing the state decision.

The state approved only 80 of the 112 beds requested, but FHS representatives said they would continue to work with the state to make sure the facility will accommodate future growth. Renowned architect firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership will design the 197,000-square-foot complex, estimated to cost $100 million.

ZGF’s projects include such area landmarks as Microsoft’s Redmond campus, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Public Health Sciences Building, and Seattle’s World Trade Center. The award-winning firm, with four offices in the country including one in Seattle, has designed for high-profile customers including hospitals, governments and big corporations.

“It is very important to us that we understand the community values, and the architecture that results reflects the community,” the firm’s Principal Brad Hinthorne, AIA, said at the July meeting. There is much to be done before the anticipated groundbreaking in 2005, including obtaining a variety of permits from the city of Gig Harbor and design approvals. Officials have already been working with the city and other involved parties. The hospital’s opening is planned for 2007 or 2008, and will include a medical building. As many as 450 family-wage jobs will be created, and many Franciscan employees who live in the Gig Harbor area may be interested in joining the facility.

Franciscan was named on the state’s 52 best employers this year in a survey by Washington CEO magazine. Two Franciscan hospitals, St. Francis in Federal Way and St. Clare in Lakewood, were also recently recognized among the country’s best 100, the fifth year in a row for an FHS hospital to make the list.

The hospital will not begin a hiring campaign until a year before opening but anyone interested can visit www.fhshealth.org to obtain regular updates.

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