If you’re into that new-building smell and Gig Harbor-area culture, St. Anthony might be your hospital heaven.
The area’s first large-scale hospital opened its doors today, giving residents from the Gig Harbor, Key Peninsula and Kitsap County areas a closer option for emergency and other medical treatment.
Of course, many of the people who live west of the Tacoma Narrows have been waiting for St. Anthony’s opening since 2003, when the state gave Franciscan Health System its blessing to build the 80-bed hospital.
But there’s been a buzz over St. Anthony’s first day the last week or so. I wrote about its opening over the weekend, but I couldn’t resist checking it out for myself today.
Making my way up Canterwood Boulevard Northwest, I was struck at how the 260,000-square-foot building was barely visible from Highway 16.
Once you’re in sight, St. Anthony’s grandeur can hit you like an errant ball from the nearby Canterwood Golf & Country Club.
The visitor parking was packed, although it’s unclear whether those were actually visitors or staff.
Construction workers were still putting the finishing touches on the place, as evidence by a couple of men trying to figure out why the main lobby’s automatic door wasn’t opening.
The oohs and aahs continue once you’re inside the main lobby. The whole place looks out on a courtyard with a rock-and-water feature, as well as the area’s vast acres of trees.
The lobby offers an information and greeting desk, a gift shop, and, of course, a wall with names of people who contributed money to St. Anthony’s construction.
A woman sat reading a book in the waiting area near what looks to be a future snack stand. The Bremerton woman, who wouldn’t give her name because of family reasons, said she had just finished getting a CAT scan in the diagnostic imaging department and wasn’t in a rush to drive home.
"It’s a beautiful place," she said. "I’m impressed that something like this could exist in Gig Harbor. It doesn’t have that institutional feel."
St. Anthony’s emergency department didn’t appear to have any customers as of 11 a.m., but that could have changed within minutes. It included waiting areas with flat-screen televisions.
Tributes to Gig Harbor’s maritime history and dot the hospital’s decor, including pictures of the old Shenandoah fishing boat and a wooden canoe and paddle fastened to the wall.
Being a Franciscan hospital and all, St. Anthony’s lobby included a bronze sculpture of its namesake, St. Anthony of Padua, produced by local artist Mardie Rees.
It also offers a chapel. I attended a ceremony about a year ago during which religious leaders from the area wrote their personalized blessings on the chapel’s inner wall.
Downstairs, people can visit the Larson Family Conference Center and the hospital cafeteria. Entrees on its offered on its first day: chipotle chicken breast, prawn stir fry over rice, corn beef and cabbage and something called Italian Stallion.
On my way out, I stopped and chatted with some volunteers working at the St. Anthony gift shop.
Peter Davids of Gig Harbor, 64, said there were a few people who purchased flowers and other items for patients. The gift hadn’t been too busy, but he suspects that will change as more people visit St. Anthony.
"They’ll be coming," he said.
Franciscan provided the following numbers for St. Anthony’s first day (between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.):
Patients admitted overnight: Five
Patients treated by emergency department: 15
Surgeries performed: Four
Heart catheterization surgeries: One
Colonoscopy surgeries: One
X-Rays, MRIs, CAT scans, mammography and other diagnostic imaging: 41
Franciscan spokesman Gale Robinette said the first person who checked in for an emergency was a 9-year-old girl. Her grandmother brought her in for an inner ear infection, he said.
She was treated and released.
“It was a good first day,” Robinette said.