With 28 years in the fire service, Kevin Crawford knows firsthand the value of having efficient and accessible emergency room facilities nearby.
So when the Carlsbad fire chief was asked to lead the program to close the fundraising gap for the second phase of the expanded critical care building at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, he said, “OK, sign me up.”
A two-year member of the hospital’s community advisory board and currently its chair, he took on the task of heading up the capital campaign in January with a goal of raising $11 million for the second phase of the $94 million project. When complete in two years, the project will more than double the size of the emergency department and increase the number of medical-surgical beds by 43 percent.
“We have narrowed the gap to roughly $4 million,” he said last week. “I’m extremely excited about our success over the last few months.”
While he’s pleased with progress, he’s still hard at work along with others explaining why the expansion is needed.
“People really didn’t understand Scripps Encinitas,” Crawford said. “It’s been an out-of-sight, out-of-mind hospital for many people.”
Many area residents go to Scripps Clinic or Scripps Green Hospital for their regular care and many don’t see the Encinitas facility as a comprehensive hospital, he added.
But if they need emergency service and live in coastal North County, Scripps Encinitas is where they go or are taken by paramedics.
Crawford, who was a firefighter-paramedic before moving up in the ranks and often transported patients to the Encinitas hospital, has seen ambulances forced to park in spots designated for hospital visitors instead of in designated ambulance bays. He also has seen patients waiting to be admitted have to stay in the ER until beds became available and paramedics unable to get back into service as they stand by waiting until their patients can be treated.
While the population of the area around the hospital has grown by more than 20 percent, according to SANDAG figures, the number of patient visits is up by about the same number. Meanwhile, no new patient care facilities have been added since 1992.
“It’s remarkable what they’ve done (to work around the limitations),” Crawford said. “The care given at Scripps Encinitas has continued to advance and increase, yet they don’t have the tools, resources or plant they need.”
But, he added, “Once we tell the story, people get it” and have made donations large and small toward the project, which got underway in late April with a formal groundbreaking ceremony. “The buzz is starting to grow. People are rallying around the campaign.”
The new critical care building and central energy plant will take over what was a parking lot on the southwest side of the property on Santa Fe Drive adjacent to Interstate 5. A new parking structure opened in Spring 2011.
The two-story building is set to open to patients in two years.
The new ER will include 27 beds — all in private rooms — replacing the 12 now there, and 36 inpatient beds for those recovering from surgery or acute illnesses. Those beds also accommodate patients being admitted through the ER. New MRI, CT scanner and diagnostic X-ray units will be included along with a telemetry system for constant wireless monitoring of patients’ vital signs.