Room to grow

Enloe to expand space for cardiovascular care

An artist’s rendering of what a room in Enloe’s future Cardiovascular Care Center might look like.

An artist’s rendering of what a room in Enloe’s future Cardiovascular Care Center might look like.

Photo courtesy of Enloe Medical Center

Learn more:
For additional details on Enloe’s Cardiovascular Care Center, visit (search “CCCC”).
For details on Oroville Hospital’s expansion, visit (click “News & Media”).

Dr. Peter Magnusson has been a cardiologist in Chico for 28 years. He’s seen the city and the North State grow during that time, and the increased population has increased demand for health care.

At 73, Magnusson knows he’s in his final few years of active practice. He’s among the cadre of septuagenarian physicians who remain the lifeblood of the local medical community. Veteran cardiologists, such as he and Dr. Peter Wolk, try to stay on the leading edge of their field—a specialty in which technology progresses ever more rapidly and conditions are ever more rampant.

Cardiovascular disease is this country’s leading cause of death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking 610,000 lives a year. Put another way: 1 in 4 Americans dies from a heart/circulatory condition.

Chico has eight cardiologists with hospital affiliation. Optimally, Magnusson said, there would be 12. Yet, understaffed as the city may be, the place they work—the inpatient facility for cardiovascular diagnostics and procedures at Enloe Medical Center—is too small.

“The hospital cardiology services have not grown in the past 20 years, whereas the hospital has grown,” Magnusson said, noting the Century Project expansion highlighted by Enloe’s five-story tower.

“The community population has grown; the hospital has become incredibly successful being a regional referral center for the North State [treating complex cases from other hospitals]; the technology for providing cardiac treatments has improved. We need to expand our capability to accommodate this increasing volume of patients with cardiac illness and bring the technology up to 21st century standards.”

The two procedure rooms are cramped, and aren’t enough for the number of patients: 18,000 last year; 22,000 this year, per the hospital’s projections. And Enloe also does not have all the high-tech equipment with which the newest doctors train to perform the latest procedures, such as minimally invasive replacement of heart valves (as opposed to open-heart surgery).

“Young physicians want to have the capability of having the tools they’ve been trained with,” Magnusson said, “and they want to be in a community to be comfortable in and raise their family. That sort of environment we can provide, but only if we update our facility.”

The nexus of needs—space to accommodate patients, plus the doctors to continue to care for them—motivated Enloe to greenlight a new expansion project: the Cardiovascular Care Center.

Unlike the Century Project, this expansion will occur within an existing building. Enloe has purchased land on East Avenue, so the medical center does have plans for physical growth—just not on its Esplanade campus. Cardiology will mushroom at its current location within the hospital.

This project will cost $17 million, of which the Enloe Foundation has pledged to raise $5 million through a campaign co-chaired by Magnusson. Since launching in January, the drive has secured $1.6 million.

“People understand the importance … and understand that we’re a standalone facility,” said Jolene Francis, Enloe’s director of advancement and communications, who oversees the foundation. “We’re not part of a large corporate structure to support every need that we have.”

Similarly, standalone Oroville Hospital just announced its own expansion. It’s planning a five-story building next to the current hospital, which will get upgraded.

That project, set for completion in fall 2018, has a $100 million price tag. Oroville Hospital’s marketing and media relations department declined to provide information beyond what’s included in a news release posted on the hospital’s website. That release quotes Robert Wentz, president and CEO, as saying: “Oroville is a growing community. Each year more and more patients are treated in our medical facilities. This new medical tower enables us to expand and improve services….”

The new building will add 14 intensive care rooms, for a total of 24, plus nine maternity rooms and 70 other patient rooms.

Enloe’s Cardiovascular Care Center will encompass approximately 14,000 square feet, compared with the 3,900 currently devoted to those services. The expansion includes four procedure rooms, a pre-/post-procedure patient area, a family lounge and consultation rooms.

Magnusson described it as “essentially a one-stop, patient- centered cardiac diagnostic facility.”

Enloe just submitted its plans for state approval; that process can take eight to 10 months. Next will come what Francis calls “cascading movements”: the relocation of departments to open up the area earmarked for expansion.

Construction should begin in 2018, with an anticipated completion period of 12 to 18 months. That window—2019 or 2020—dovetails with the fundraising schedule.

Francis said “physicians who are retiring”—Magnusson and others who won’t spend much time in the Cardiovascular Care Center, but are championing it nonetheless—are giving “a legacy gift to our community.”

In the meantime, Chico’s cardiologists will try to keep up with the pace.

“The next three years are going to be a challenge,” Magnusson said. “We’re still growing; there’s increasing need. We’re going to be spending late hours here [at the hospital] to get all the work done.”

Magnusson estimates his patient load has grown 5 percent annually. With just two rooms for diagnostic procedures as well as emergency treatments, delays have become inevitable.

Obviously, increasing the number of rooms will impact capacity, but the equation doesn’t work without more practitioners.

“In a way, this is part of the succession plan,” Magnusson said. “The world of medicine, and the world of cardiology in particular, [is] evolving toward less invasive procedures … larger rooms will allow us to accommodate those technologies as they become more applicable to us. Those are technologies that will be used by the younger physicians who we will recruit to the new facility, which becomes another attraction.

“As we develop this cardiac care center, we’re going to be able to attract such individuals.”