Curry Health Network officials don't yet have the final results of soil testing on land where the new hospital is slated to be built, but they're forging ahead with details such as the location of cabinets and furniture in the four-story facility.

Voters in the hospital district, which extends from the Pistol River area north to the Coos County line and out to Agness, voted earlier this year to approve a $10 million bond to build a new hospital on the site of the present one.

The state fire marshal has, over the years, turned a blind eye to the facility's many shortcomings, but last year announced that if the numerous violations weren't addressed, he would be obligated to close the facility.

The rush is on, primarily because the marshal gave hospital district officials two years in which to comply or build a new facility.

Others, including John Spicer, who until recently was the president of the hospital board, and county emergency services director Don Kendall, think they should slow down and take into consideration new information regarding earthquakes and tsunamis that could affect the new hospital when the Cascadia Fault paralleling the Oregon coast finally releases.

Hospital officials, however, feel having a hospital at risk is better than not having one in the area at all.

"I have given them my spiel; I have given them my recommendation," Kendall said. "They will move forward as they see fit. They have to accept the risk value and move the direction they need to move."

The quake is long overdue.

"Over the past 10,000 years, there have been 19 earthquakes that extended along most of the margin, stretching from southern Vancouver Island to the Oregon-California border," said Chris Goldfinger, professor of College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. "These would typically be of a magnitude from about 8.7 to 9.2 - really huge earthquakes.

"We've also determined that there have been 22 additional earthquakes that involved just the southern end of the fault," he added. "We are assuming that these are slightly smaller andndash; more like 8.0 andndash; but not necessarily. They were still very large earthquakes that if they happened today could have a devastating impact."

A Cascadia earthquake of 9.0 magnitude is expected to damage infrastructure - notably Interstates 5 - as far away as Medford, so trying to build a hospital that's completely resilient to that and an ensuing tsunami might be a moot point, Kendall agreed.

"As I understand it, there's only one true issue standing before them, and it is the most devastating," Kendall said. "An earthquake/tsunami combination out of Cascadia will probably destroy anything within a mile of the coast anyway."

Tentative drawings

Tentative plans call for the ground-level story of the new facility to comprise a lobby, emergency room waiting area; two trauma rooms, triage and exam rooms; imaging - X-rays, MRI, mammogram, heart imaging machines and others - a gift store and meditation area.

To the east of the hospital is proposed to be parking, a helipad and emergency room access.

The second story is proposed to have a clinic with corresponding exam rooms and two operating rooms with related support facilities.

The third story is comprised of hospital rooms, an obstetrics ward and pharmacy.

The next steps

There was the possibility that the project would be delayed, as the Oregon representative to the USDA who was supposed to review the geo-technical survey accepted a new job. The USDA has since arranged for a representative from its California office to complete the review.

On July 29, the project budget and other financial documents were submitted to the company that prepared the original feasibility study; the senior project construction manager from Erdman Company came to town to review the site regarding excavation requirements; and others will arrive next week to discuss detailed room layout.

Additionally, bi-weekly telephone conferences are being held with the USDA, Erdman Company, the project manager and Curry Health Network CEO Andrew Bair and CFO Ken Landau, a hospital update reads.

Schematic designs were sent to the USDA this week, and the board plans hold its regularly monthly meeting Aug. 27, where the contracting company will provide an update.