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After yearlong battle, Providence hospital to build 13 new emergency rooms

Providence Alaska Medical Center, the largest hospital in the state, announced Monday that it is moving forward with a major expansion of emergency room facilities.

The hospital, located in Anchorage, has begun renovating and expects to have 13 new emergency rooms in full working order by 2018. The $12.8 million project will also add emergency rooms dedicated to pediatric care. It brings the total number of emergency rooms at Providence to 50.

"Having an emergency treatment area for children will help reduce anxiety for children and curtail stress parents feel when having to visit an emergency room," said Richard Mandsager, chief executive at Providence. "Additionally, this expansion ensures we have the emergency department capacity to continue providing trauma care to Alaskans across our state."

The hospital is working with Architects Alaska and Davis Constructors & Engineers on the project, said Providence spokesman Mikal Canfield.

The approval did not come without a fight. For more than a year, Providence and rival Alaska Regional Hospital were in fierce competition for state approval to build new emergency rooms. Most states tend to be conservative about the number they allow hospitals to build because patients or their insurance companies typically bear the costs of both occupied and empty rooms.

"We are extremely disappointed and concerned about the implications of this decision for the residents of Eagle River and the surrounding areas," said Julie Taylor, Alaska Regional Hospital's CEO. "Alaska Regional Hospital's first priority is patient care and serving our community. In that regard, we do not understand Commissioner Davidson's decision to deny Alaska Regional Hospital's request to help meet the critical medical needs of a community of 40,000 Alaskans located many miles away from the medical center of Anchorage."

Late last week, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson granted approval to Providence.

Alaska Regional's plan differed markedly from Providence's in that the emergency facilities would have cost twice as much, subjected patients and insurers to higher charges and would not have been able to fully treat victims of major trauma. But Regional argued that the location of its proposed emergency facilities, in Eagle River and South Anchorage, would cut transport times and reduce congestion around the municipality's highly concentrated health services corridor.

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