Since opening in early 2013, Summit Pacific has rapidly become one of the largest, most vibrant hospital districts in Western Washington. Although the continued growth has been a tremendous asset for the community, this also means that changes and expansion need to be continually assessed. As progression continues to keep operations running smooth, one of the changes currently in the works is an expansion of Summit Pacific’s main laboratory.

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The need to expand the lab first entered Laboratory Manager Nickellatt Edwards’s mind in 2018. Photo courtesy: Summit Pacific Medical Center

The additional 575 square feet of space that will be added to the lab, located in the Medical Center, will take over a staff hallway and a portion of an adjacent room. For the most part, everything will look the same to patients.

Summit Pacific’s Laboratory Services Manager, Nickellatt Edwards, MHA, MLS (ASCP)cm recognized the need for an expansion in 2018. “I noticed the need for more space and equipment to continue providing high quality care in the most efficient way possible,” says Edwards.

The lab expansion will support the growth of essential services due to the rising patient population. The project will reduce turn-around time for test results in the diagnosis of critical infections, providing better patient outcomes.

The lab operates 24/7, with 20 people between three shifts. “Although this is the era of automation,” states Edwards, “we still need scientists to run the instruments and perform other essential duties, so the extra space and equipment will really help us as we expand in the future.”

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Approximately 575 square feet of space that will be added to the lab at Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma. Photo courtesy: Summit Pacific Medical Center

“Along with more space, our biggest need is in-house microbiology and a second chemistry analyzer. While rare, machines need maintenance. When that happens, we have to transfer specimens to another lab. A chemistry analyzer is the most critical instrument in the lab and performs tests that impact 70% of patients,” states Edwards. “Soon, Summit Pacific will have two.”

While the need for the expanded lab was agreed upon by everyone, the question was how to fund the project. With the help of colleague Ron Hulscher, the two applied for a Murdock Grant. After completing the pre-grant application, all was looking well for the project, and then the COVID-19 pandemic began. “We were in the final stage of our grant application and interview right when COVID hit,” explains Edwards. “In typical Summit fashion, we stayed agile and created a video tour. We were delighted to be awarded the funding in August 2020.”

Although the Murdock Grant is funding the majority of the project, some of the costs of construction are also being provided by Summit Pacific Medical Foundation, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports the needs of the hospital district.

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The expanded lab at Summit Pacific Medical Center will soon offer microbiology and a second chemistry analyzer. Photo courtesy: Summit Pacific Medical Center

“I’m excited to see the growth and be able to increase testing capabilities at a faster pace,” expressed Justin McClintock MLS (ASCP)cm, Summit Pacific’s lead clinical scientist. “This will help to provide more services to the community and allow them to be completed more quickly.”

Construction officially began May 10 and consists of four phases. The timeline projects construction to be finished in August and the instrumentation to be installed in October. “We’re aiming for the middle of October to train staff and wrap up the project,” states Edwards.

To learn more, visit Summit Pacific’s website.

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