Five years ago this week, Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula welcomed St. Anthony Hospital to the community. With it came medical care closer to home, as well as jobs and other measures of economic development. Above all came a greater quality of life.
It was 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day when St. Anthony opened on Canterwood Boulevard in 2009. It was the culmination of one of the largest construction projects Gig Harbor has ever seen, and it was backed by a state-issued Certificate of Need, the first of its kind in almost 30 years.
Planning started long before construction, and so did the pleas for help. Those who have been around long enough to remember the peninsulas before the second Narrows bridge can attest to their difficulties with traffic and rush-hour congestion — a major hurdle, considering the closest hospitals for emergency care were either in Tacoma or Bremerton.
That was the basis for a public campaign to bring a hospital to our neighborhood.
The eastbound span of the Narrows bridge opened in July 2007, and St. Anthony helped the growth of our area just two years later. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been to St. Anthony for some type of medical care.
We even have a few of our own examples:
Just weeks after the hospital opened, one of our newsroom staffers drove his wife to St. Anthony to have health care professionals take a look at her ongoing leg pain. He drove her to the emergency department late one night because she feared she had a blot clot in her calf. She was pregnant, and that type of condition could result in complications.
They went through triage and were immediately taken to an exam room. A doctor, who arrived within minutes, took one look at the pregnant woman and stopped in his tracks.
“You know we don’t do babies here, right?” he said with a smile.
Several tests later, no clot was found. Relieved, the couple went home.
In 2011, an employee and his wife trained for most of the summer to run in the Race for a Soldier half-marathon. On race day that October, both successfully completed the 13.1-mile course, which started and finished by the Gig Harbor YMCA and swung through the Canterwood neighborhood.
Afterward, however, the woman started to feel sick. She initially got medical attention from paramedics who were on scene for Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One. But after the firefighters’ initial treatment, they took the woman in an ambulance to St. Anthony, where she received some IV fluids due to dehydration.
Thankfully, our stories are fairly minor in comparison to some who have more heartbreaking stories to tell. But to those who face dire circumstances, having a hospital in Gig Harbor within minutes can potentially save more lives.
Think of those who live on the Key Peninsula, particularly on the southern end. If they’re involved in a collision or have a life-threatening emergency at their home, it not only takes time for firefighter/EMTs to reach them, it also takes time to travel on the Key Peninsula Highway to reach an emergency room.
When the closest hospitals were in Tacoma or Bremerton, that extra time literally could mean the difference between life and death.
Aside from that, the hospital has stood as a symbol for economic growth. Infrastructure was put in place to handle traffic impacts, and other health care professionals now have offices that are connected to the main facility with a sky bridge.
We have an aging community, but we also have young families, and both generations will use St. Anthony for different purposes.
And while it truly doesn’t have a labor and delivery floor, St. Anthony has the capability within its emergency department. A boy named Oliver Welch currently holds the distinction as being the only one ever born at the Gig Harbor hospital.