July 17, 2019 — PeaceHealth Peace Harbor celebrated its 30th anniversary Friday with an informal celebration that was “a great opportunity to celebrate with the community, 30 years of walking together and taking care of each other,” said Peace Harbor CEO Jason Hawkins. “What I’m most proud of about this place is the people that work here. I was taught early in my career that the local hospital is a reflection of your community, and you should never try and distort that image. I think that PeaceHealth Peace Harbor has maintained that image that we’re a patient-first organization.”
Peace Harbor officially held its ribbon cutting on July 8, 1989, moving its patients, equipment and staff from Western Lane Hospital.
“Going from a large hospital to a bigger hospital — it seemed like it was gigantic,” said Peace Harbor’s Pixie Center, who has worked in the hospital for 33 years. “It seemed huge compared to where we were at Western Lane. To me, it was fun. Well, I’m sure others who had to deal with moving the equipment thought it was hard, but for me it was fun. I do remember trying to get to places, you felt like you got lost. It was a maze. It sounds silly now, but for anybody else who comes in, they say the same thing. But it was fun, showing off our place.”
Center said that she remembered a lot of excitement during the transition, though there were some difficulties at first, particularly with the bureaucracy of a larger corporation.
“We used to be able to start something and follow it all the way through,” Center recalled. “And being able to do that seamlessly, and then going to a more corporate type setting, for me, was the hardest part. It was a hard change for a lot of people.”
Center said that some of the staff felt an “us versus them” rivalry.
“There’s us here, and then there’s them over the hill. But really, it’s all of us. All of PeaceHealth” she said. “Once we looked at it more that way, it got better. It’s a more efficient system if you work together doing the same way. … If you’re part of a large organization, you’re a team working through all the processes, you can glean a lot from them, education wise. I think it’s a lot better that way.”
As are the services being offered.
“We’re offering more here so patients don’t have to go over the hill as much, unless it’s something we don’t do here like brain surgery,” Center said. “But we’ll be able to identify what a lot of patients are going [to Eugene] for. If we can bring that service here, they won’t have to. But we have to know the numbers back that up. We’re on the right road.”
At the time of its dedication, Oregon State Sen. John Brenneman said that the transition from an independent organization to one with affiliates throughout the country would help ensure rural patients get access to treatments otherwise unavailable. It was a prediction that Hawkins felt has come true in the past 30 years.
“There have certainly been two types of community hospitals — those that chose to partner and affiliate and those that tried to remain independent for various reasons,” he said. “But you can see where those who were able to affiliate were able to continue to recruit physicians, they were able to improve the clinical outcomes. They were able to add additional services over the years.
“So, you can really start to see those organizations that through partnership, rather than competition, were able to serve their communities much more.”
Hawkins pointed to the 20-plus primary care providers, seven surgeons, three women’s health providers and the hospital’s large staff as proof that the partnership has helped the patients in the community.
“And access to state-of-the-art equipment,” he added. “In the last few years, we were required to have an electronic health record. That alone, with an organization this size, was somewhere between $7 to 8 million that Peace Harbor would have had to come up with on its own, if it wouldn’t have been affiliated.”
Upgrades to the facility would have also been difficult, as the hospital has recently made a $6 million addition to the emergency department, a $5 million expansion of the radiology department and installed various new forms of equipment that were previously unavailable.
“We might have not had the services we have today, I think that’s fair to say,” Hawkins said when asked what would happen if the transition hadn’t occurred. “I think of services like delivering babies here. We’re delivering about 60-70 babies a year. That was an ethical discernment that PeaceHealth did, that we’re committed to the community because it was the right thing to do. Asking moms to travel in labor an hour-and-a-half to Eugene/Springfield wouldn’t have been the best for health. To have that program here and make sure it’s meeting the mission of the community is very important.”
As for what is in store for the next 30 years, Hawkins stated that advancements in healthcare will bring even more services to rural areas.
“I actually think we’ll be busier and offer more services,” he said. “We’re doing procedures now that 15 years ago were only being done in larger in-patient facilities. But because of advancements in health care, we can do surgeries that are less invasive. So, I think as health care continues to be more creative and finds more research, we’ll be able to have more solutions and treatments locally for maybe cancer, oncology services. And treat patients pharmacologically for cardiac disease, rather than needing bypass surgery — I think those things you’ll start to see happening more in community hospitals.”
Whatever the future holds, Hawkins said that the hospital will continue to make clinical excellence the bedrock of decisions.
“We want to continue to make sure that anything we’re doing, we’re providing the best care possible,” he added. “One hundred percent patient care, zero harm for our patients.”
And the bedrock to make that happen is the staff.
“Thank you for everything you do for our community, for coming to work every day and being the best version of yourself,” Hawkins said.