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Marin General Turns to Sister Hospital in Japan

Sister-hospital relationship will help guide MGH as earthquake upgrades more forward.

As Marin General prepares for to comply with state earthquake-safety requirements, it makes sense the hospital would turn to another earthquake-devastated hospital for ideas and guidance: Ishinomaki City Hospital in Northern Japan.

Though MGH hasn’t yet announced the formal sister-hospital relationship, Jon Friedenberg, Chief Fund and Business Development Officer for Marin General Hospital and President of the Marin General Hospital Foundation, accidentally revealed the plans after a resident asked about learning from other countries during a presentation at the Fairfax Town Council in September on the hospital’s planned renovations and expansion.

“I couldn’t help myself,” he said last week about the accidental slip.

The Ishinomaki Red Cross City Hospital in Ishinomaki, Japan was devastated following the earthquake and tsunami in March. Though the building was merely damaged by the earthquake, the tsunami wiped out the bottom two floors of the hospital on the Northern Coast – taking with it the people and equipment on those floors.

“They’re up and running, but there’s lots and lots of work still to be done,” said Friedenberg.

And that is exactly why Marin General can learn so much from them about how to deal with earthquakes.

“We can learn from their experience,” said Friedenberg. “And we appreciate it even more knowing that they’re still dealing with the aftermath of their tragedy.”

Japan has highly-sophisticated medical care and extensive building codes, making it a good place to learn from and comparable to the US. And the hospitals along the coast and in the earthquake-prone areas have had to learn how to deal with many of the same issues the Bay Area must address. Additionally, Japan is going through similar economic problems and has similar healthcare challenges – making a potential long-term relationship useful to both countries.

In a series of presentations to six different town councils in the past few months, Friedenberg has discussed the extensive plans for new buildings on the Kentfield campus.

He explained to council members that the hospital is required to meet state earthquake codes, but that retrofitting the old buildings had been ruled out. Instead, Marin General will upgrade facilities to become more state-of-the-art as well as earthquake safe.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, the healthcare district is moving ahead with the environmental review process necessary for that upgrade and plans to bring a bond for $300 to $350 million to the voters in November 2013.

The project would result in the construction of a 300,000-square-foot hospital replacement building consisting of two wings; a 100,000-square-foot ambulatory services building; and two parking structures containing a total of 902 spaces. The project would add 662,020 square feet of total building area to the existing campus.

An elevated pedestrian access bridge would connect one of the parking structures, on Bon Air Road, to the hospital replacement building and the ambulatory services building. The project also calls for renovation of one of the three existing wings of the hospital.

But, plans are all well and good until a disaster really strikes.

“When something actually happens, you learn things,” said Friedenberg. That first-hand knowledge is valuable information that can be shared through the sister-hospital relationship.

The Ishinomaki Hospital and Marin General disaster safety teams plan to discuss ideas and experiences, particularly as specific hospital design plans are finalized. The two hospitals will start with a video-conference meeting and develop a list of possible things to do together.

One of those things includes Marin General inventorying supplies to see what surplus supplies that would otherwise go to waste can instead be sent to Japan.

“We think we can learn from each other and help each other and we’re looking forward to doing that,” said Friedenberg.

A public meeting on the environmental report for the planned construction will be held Thursday, Oct. 6 at Bacich School from 6 to 8 p.m. Public comment on the scoping of the environmental impact report can be sent to Marin Healthcare District by Oct. 20.

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